Don’t be duped online: Tips for avoiding Real Estate Cyber Scams

Phishing, hacking, wire fraud − these are all ways people attempt to steal from others online. As real estate searches and transactions move more and more online, the chances of being caught up in a cyber scam are now even greater.

“Most people have heard of the Nigerian prince scams or phishing emails asking for social security or banking information, but what many people don’t know is that they also need to watch out for possible scams when buying or selling their home,” says Peter Ilani, UCBR President. “Cybercrimes have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and the people perpetrating them focus on situations where large sums of money is changing hands, making real estate transactions an ideal target.”

The National Association of Realtors® recently warned its members and consumers with a recent example, a wiring scam which can occur during the closing stages of the home buying and selling process. Hackers break into the email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals to get details about a real estate transaction. The hackers then send emails pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent or someone else involved in the closing process. They then instruct that there has been a last minute change and provide new wiring instructions; sending the closing costs funds directly into the hacker’s bank account.

While it may seem as though there are hundreds of ways for criminals to take advantage of a consumer online, there are just as many ways’ consumers can protect themselves.

Here are important tips from Ulster County Board of REALTORS® to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate scams:

Do not send sensitive information via email.
“Do not send banking information, your social security number or anything else that could be used to comprise your identity over email,” said Ilani. “If you absolutely must send personal or sensitive information via email, only use encrypted email.”

Do not click on unverified email.
“If you do not recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the email,” said Ilani. “And beware of any attachments or downloadable files from unknown email addresses; they can contain viruses or provide a way for a hacker to access your computer.”

If you suspect fraud, tell someone.
“If you suspect that fraud has or is in the process of occurring, contact all parties connected to the transaction immediately,” said Ilani. “Unfortunately, often there is nothing that can be done to retrieve money stolen in the scam, however, you should still report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission.”

For more information on how to safely and securely buy or sell a home, contact Ulster County Board of REALTORS® by visiting, or calling (845) 338- 5299 to speak with a Realtor.

A member organization of the National Association of Realtors ®, the Ulster County Board of REALTORS® is comprised of residential and commercial REALTORS® who subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice.

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