by Lisa Mihelcich, COO of zipLogix
[Sponsored Content by zipLogix] Wire fraud and cybersecurity breaches remain valid threats in the real estate industry, despite precautions such as using password-protected Wi-Fi. In fact, wire fraud was the number one type of fraud in 2016, causing $50 billion in losses, according to PointPredictive’s Chief Fraud Strategist Frank McKenna.
Cybersecurity breaches result in major losses, as well. But although some cybersecurity breaches can be traced back to the culprit, most wire fraud crimes are untraceable. It happens in real estate transactions when hackers break into a real estate professional’s or a client’s email account and look for upcoming dates of transactions, especially closings. The criminal emails the buyer, posing as the agent or title officer with wiring instruction changes at the eleventh hour. If the buyer complies and sends the money to the fraudulent account, the money is gone—just like that. Unfortunately, the offer for the house usually falls through as well.
Taking wire instructions by phone or in person is safest, but encourage your members to follow these tips to prevent being a victim of fraud or identity theft when doing business online:
- Be suspicious of links and attachments from unknown email addresses.
- Do not use public Wi-Fi to conduct any transactions or business.
- Verify wire instructions received via email with a phone call to the right party.
- Use secure applications to collaborate online.
- Sign documents online using digital signature, two-step verification software.
- Use strong passwords, safeguard passwords, and do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
Software designed for security and authenticity can help keep you and your clients safe from hackers and thieves when collaborating electronically on a sale. zipCommunity, by zipLogix, enables agents, clients, escrow officers, and others in the transaction to communicate in real time through video, audio, or text chat, and even screen sharing. Users can complete a transaction entirely online in a secure digital environment. All changes to documents are tracked in a history section embedded within the transaction, creating a paper trail of every edit and document view of the transaction. Both the agent and client receive a notification any time a change is made by either party.
When time or distance constraints don’t allow parties to meet in person to sign documents, digital signatures prevail over electronic signatures. What is the difference between digital and electronic signatures? Any signature in electronic form, such as one written on a tablet with a stylus, constitutes an electronic signature, but these are susceptible to tampering or altering, which diminishes legal protection. A digital signature, on the other hand, is embedded in the document, securing the identity of each signer as well as the document’s content.
Digital signing software such as zipLogix Digital Ink* ensures that the digital signatures on documents are legal and valid, long term, by taking things one step further in the transaction process. Documents signed using zipLogix Digital Ink are time-stamped, and the signature is permanently attached to the document. Any attempt to change the data or tamper with the digital signatures will automatically and visibly invalidate the document. For an extra layer of security, optional SMS authentication is available.* It works by requiring the signer to enter a unique security code, sent by text message to the signer’s mobile device, before documents can be signed.
Another way to keep accounts and client information safe is to take advantage of two-factor authentication software, such as Two-Factor Authentication from zipLogix. This is a free opt-in feature within the zipForm Plus platform that protects accounts and confidential client information from unauthorized access. Before users gain access to their accounts, they must enter a code sent to their mobile devices or email, verifying their identity at login.
Cyberthreats and wire fraud will persist as long as real estate professionals continue performing transactions online, but it’s not necessary to resort to the old-fashioned way of doing business just to stay secure. Improvements in protection mechanisms against these crimes are staying one step ahead, continually outsmarting and preventing criminals from getting access to confidential information.
To learn more about protecting online real estate transactions, visit www.ziplogix.com or contact a zipLogix representative at (866) 627-4729.
*zipLogix Digital Ink is not endorsed by the National Association of REALTORS® and is not included as part of the benefit available through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program. Cybersecurity services are available to users for an additional charge.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR does not verify the accuracy of its content. Consumers should perform their own due diligence when selecting any products or services