Blog posted On October 06, 2021
Every year, Americans lose billions of dollars to cybercrime. In 2020, cyber criminals stole over $210 million from home buyers alone. Real estate wire fraud is one of the fastest growing schemes in the United States. Hackers often target people transferring large amounts of money like down payments. But don’t worry. It doesn’t mean that your transaction isn’t safe. It just means that you need to take a few extra precautions along the way.
To help protect you and your money, here are four steps to take to stay safe from cybercrime.
One of the easiest ways to keep yourself and your money safe is by keeping your personal information close to the chest. It’s obvious that you should protect your passwords. What’s less obvious is how to protect your passwords. When it comes to creating passwords, most people will use the same one (or the same one with minor variations) across all platforms. So if your password got into the wrong hands, it could grant someone access to all of your sites, banks, or other places with your personal and financial information. To better prevent yourself from getting hacked, use different passwords for everything. Vary the passwords with capitalization, numbers, and special characters (if permitted). If you’re worried about forgetting your passwords, use a password manager software. This software not only will protect your passwords behind an encrypted wall, but it can help you generate stronger passwords as well. Besides protecting your passwords and SSNs, you should make sure that you’re protecting things like birthdays, family member names, or anything else that could be used to forge your identity. Common security questions are about personal details in your life.
Social media is a great tool for virtual connection and communication. But it can also be great weapon for hackers. Oftentimes, people will post content on social media that they don’t even think could be a threat to their personal security. From your mom’s maiden name to your alma mater, to other important identifies that hackers can use to steal your identity or hack your passwords. “Criminals will go through every single bit of social media to find anything they can use to their advantage,” says cybersecurity expert Brett Johnson.
Make sure that your privacy settings are protecting you and you’re not oversharing on different platforms. It also might be a good idea to review your ‘friends’ or followers on different sites. Sometimes we click ‘accept’ without really knowing someone. "Do you actually know your 10,000 'friends?'" Johnson says. "If you don't, why on earth are you sharing anything with them?”
Hackers are smart. Sometimes instead of taking one large sum of money, they’ll take little bits at a time. This is why it’s important to review your bank account summaries every month. If you see suspicious charges or purchases you don’t remember making, call your bank or credit company right away. Certain sites like CreditKarma and Experian will offer credit monitoring services that will alert you of any suspicious card activity or information breaches. If you have been a victim of credit card or identity theft, make sure that you freeze your accounts as soon as possible. This will restrict access to your credit report and prevent the criminal from opening new lines of credit.
When receiving an email from a bank or say a title company, closing attorney, real estate agent, or lender, pay close attention to the sender’s email address. Oftentimes, cyber criminals will change just one letter from the actual email address, making it hard to notice at a glance. If you receive any emails with money wiring instructions, make sure that you double check verbally with your attorney, lender, or title company. Before transferring any money, make sure that the wiring information is correct by verifying over the phone. If you’re ever nervous about wire fraud risks, you could always ask if a certified check is acceptable.
If you have any questions about cyber security risks or wire transfers for your transaction let us know. We want you to feel as comfortable and confident as possible throughout the home loan process – especially when it comes to something as important as your finances. If you’re worried that you’ve been a victim of wire fraud, please contact our fraud department immediately.