Avoid Being Scammed During Your Next Real Estate Transaction

Technology has changed the way we buy and sell houses. From sites that display millions of listings to sensitive transaction documents sent through email, the internet has made buying and selling a home easier than ever. But all of that personal information floating out in cyberspace, along with the large sums of money that real estate transactions require, has caused scammers to take notice.

By now, you probably know that if a “Nigerian prince” contacts you, or you get a Facebook notice from a distant relative saying they lost their wallet while overseas, it’s time to hit the delete button. But cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and have come up with new scams that have fooled even the most savvy consumer.

The National Association of REALTORS® recently warned its members and consumers about one example—a wiring scam during the closing stage of the home buying and selling process. Hackers will break into the email accounts of consumers to get basic details about a real estate transaction. Then the hackers send an email pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent, title officer or someone else involved in the closing process and say there has been a last minute change. That change—new wiring instructions—sends the closing funds directly to the hacker’s bank account. And just like that, the money vanishes.

While it may seem like there are hundreds of ways for a criminal to take advantage of a consumer online, there are just as many ways consumers can protect themselves.  Here are a few tips to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate scams:

♦ Do not send your social security number—the skeleton key to your entire financial life—banking information, or anything else that could be used to comprise your identity over email or text. A REALTOR® will be sure to send all correspondence/ documents over encrypted channels.

♦ Do not click on unverified email. If you do not recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the email. Many scams involve “spoofing,” where a fraudulent sender pretends to be a legitimate one, including using pictures and brand marks that closely mimic legitimate sites. These can be very convincing.  Look for strange subject lines (“Second Delivery Attempt” and “Urgent Action Required” are popular with hackers because they work), misspelled words, incorrect or informal grammar and requests to open or download files that you aren’t expecting.

♦ Always call the sender to verify instructions. If you do receive an email asking you to wire funds, even if it looks legitimate, it’s a good idea to call the sender just to verify. It only takes a moment and could save you thousands of dollars.  Your REALTOR® can also tell you what to expect to receive and in what format.

♦ It may seem harmless to check banking information using the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop or airport, but using an open connection can leave you vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Only access sensitive information on your home computer or on a secured network.

♦ If you suspect that fraud has or is in the process of occurring, contact all parties pertinent to the transaction immediately.  Once your money leaves your account, there is virtually no way to get it back.

♦ For more information on how to safely and securely buy or sell a home, visit SABOR.com and use a San Antonio area REALTOR®.

Posted on January 23, 2018 at 5:28 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Real Estate, Technology | Tagged , ,

Give Your Home A Tech Makeover

The newest tech gadgets can make life simpler, safer, and save you money in the long run. And the best smart home devices don’t require you to be a genius to operate them. But which are worth the investment, and which will join your breadmaker and NordicTrack in the storage closet? Here are a few to consider:

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More info at www.belkin.com

Ever get a few miles away from home and suddenly wonder if you turned the iron off? The Belkin WeMo Switch takes the worry out of leaving something on when you’re gone. Simply download the WeMo App, plug the Wi-Fi enabled switch into any outlet in your home, and plug the device you want to control into the switch. Then use your smartphone to control fans, lamps, heaters—just about anything in your home that plugs in. It’s that easy. Best of all, the device costs about $36.

 

 

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More info at www.nest.com

 

The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature in your home from your phone, tablet, or PC. At about $250, it’s not cheap, but it has the potential to cut energy costs by up to 15%. Nest learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule around it—turn up the heat a few days in a row when you come home, and Nest learns you like your happy hour at 70º. Just pop off your old thermostat and install your new Nest in about half an hour. Locally, CPS Energy has partnered with Nest, and will give you up to $85 when you use the device and sign up for their Rush Hour Rewards program.

 

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More info at www2.meethue.com

Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive home in the evening, and rather than feeling your way around the house while you find the lights, have them all turn on at the push of a button? Phillips Hue White allows you to do just that using your smartphone. Simply buy the starter kit for about $70 (additional bulbs cost about $15) at any home improvement store, then follow three easy steps. Screw the two special bulbs into your existing light fixtures, connect the included bridge to your Wi-Fi, then download the app, find your lights with it and have fun scheduling your teenager’s room lights to flip on early Saturday morning.

Posted on November 9, 2016 at 6:50 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Home Maintenance, Uncategorized | Tagged ,