Cybersecurity and wire fraud breaches remain valid threats in the real estate industry, despite available precautions. In fact, wire fraud was the No. 1 type of fraud in 2016, causing $50 billion in losses, according to PointPredictive’s Chief Fraud Strategist Frank McKenna.
Worse yet, wire fraud losses happen instantly, and most are untraceable back to the culprit. It can happen in real estate transactions when hackers break into an agent’s or client’s email account and look for upcoming transaction dates. The criminal, posing as the agent or title officer, emails the buyer with wiring instruction changes in the eleventh hour. If the buyer complies, the money is gone—just like that. Unfortunately, the offer for the house usually falls through, as well.
Cybersecurity breaches result in major losses, as well. For example, Equifax is offering consumers free credit-file monitoring and identity theft protection for one year since it experienced a massive breach of consumer information earlier this year.
Follow these tips to prevent being a victim of fraud or identity theft:
- Do not use public WiFi to conduct any transactions or business.
- Verify wire instructions received via email with a phone call to the sender.
- Use secure applications to collaborate online.
- Sign documents online using digital signature, two-step verification software.
Using software designed for security and authenticity like zipCommunity™ by zipLogix™ can help thwart hackers and thieves. zipCommunity, included in the zipForm® Plus application created by zipLogix, allows all parties involved with a transaction to communicate live with one another through video, audio or text chat. 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. Both the agent and client receive a notification any time a change is made by either party.
When time constraints don’t allow meeting in person to sign documents, digital signatures prevail over electronic signatures. What’s 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. It’s susceptible to tampering or altering, which diminishes legal protection. A digital signature is embedded in the document, securing the identity of each signer, as well as the document’s content.
zipLogix Digital Ink®, the company’s secure e-signature solution, ensures that the digital signatures on documents are legal and valid 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 or tamper with the digital signatures will automatically and visibly invalidate the document.
Cyber threats 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, outsmarting and preventing criminals from getting access to confidential information.
Lisa Mihelcich is COO of zipLogix.
To learn more about protecting online real estate transactions, please visit www.ziplogix.com, or contact a zipLogix representative at (866) 627-4729.
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