SAN FRANCISCO (November 11, 2019) – Cybercrimes, including those involving transfer fraud and compromised records in real estate transactions, have increased over the past two years, and in 2019 – due to poor security systems and neglectful behaviors – these crimes and similar criminality are on a record-setting pace.

This grim information, and a heed of caution, come from CEO of Safr.Me, Robert Siciliano who spoke at the 2019 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco, during a Sunday morning session called Defend Against the Data Breach: Protect from Spyware, Malware, Ransomware and Keyloggers.

“Bad guys are more organized than ever,” said Siciliano, who is a security expert and private investigator. “And now that they have your information, they turn that into cash.”

Siciliano, once a victim of a cybercrime himself, is now armed with the knowledge he needs to secure private information, such as his Social Security number, passwords and banking or financial details. He stressed the importance of doing a “credit freeze” with credit reporting agencies Experian, Transunion, Equifax or Innovis.

“Equifax’s data breach affected 143 million people,” he said. “So, the bad guys already have your identity. Maybe you have been affected, maybe not, but it’s just a matter of time.”

To avoid that fate, he suggested individuals refrain from using weak or common passwords for email or other accounts, such as “123456” or “password.” He also recommended having a password manager, in addition to using a two-step verification for email and other accounts that require a sign-in.

“If you don’t have this, you’re running naked through the woods and you’re going to get pricked.”

Siciliano especially warned Realtors® and agents about being too lax and failing to take cyber security seriously. He stressed that hackers have capabilities to intercept emails between clients and real estate agents. The outcome, he said, could very well be the thief successfully stealing closing funds.

Siciliano said it is common for hackers to monitor a housing transaction and wait for the time of closing when the hacker can pose as the agent and communicate with the buyer to wire the money to an illegitimate account.

“Hackers say once they own your password, they own the email. Because they can pose as you.”

Agents, Siciliano says, must have “these uncomfortable conversations with your clients.” ‘If you get any emails from me with wiring instructions, call me.’ If it isn’t had ahead of time, you’re going to lose that sale and someone is going to get sued.”

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.