As much of the real estate landscape moves online, it is becoming increasingly common for the industry to be the target of hackers and scams. Hackers recently stole $54,000 from a Tulsa man who was in the process of purchasing a rental property. He received an email that appeared to come from his Realtor with wiring instructions for a down payment, but the money went to hackers instead.
“It’s so unfortunate that this happened, and another reminder that we need to be vigilant to protect ourselves from scammers in this connected world,” said Pete Galbraith, OAR president. “It’s essential to find a Realtor who can guide you through the basics of the home-buying process, including sending down-payment money.”
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors (OAR) wants to help its members and consumers avoid scams by sharing these cyber-security tips:
Do a follow-up search for the listing you found online. If the search brings up the listing under different terms, in a different city, or under a different Realtor, odds are it is a fake listing. This extra step will help you avoid moving forward with a home or property that is not available as you found it online.
Before wiring a down payment, verify the wiring instructions with your agent. It is becoming increasingly common for Realtors not to accept personal checks or cash, and instead to direct people to wire money or submit a cashier’s check. Although instructions for the wire payment may come from your agent in an email, it is important that you verify the instructions before sending any money.
Get to know your Realtor and the property beyond what you see on the computer screen. Take the time to meet your Realtor in person. You can even ask to see their active real estate license. Visit the home you are interested in and make sure you take a good look at both the outside and inside of the home. This will allow you to verify that the property matches the listing.
Never send sensitive information over email. You should not share your Social Security number, banking information nor any sensitive data that may compromise your personal information through email. Rather, share this information with your agent over the phone, or in person, the latter of which is always the safest option.