real estate phishing scams

Real Estate Phishing Scams are on the Rise: Here’s What You Need to Know

A new digital world presents new digital threats.

Real estate transactions are at high risk of cybercrimes, particularly phishing scams, a trend that is spiking due to an increase in online communications, work from home policies, and weak software security systems.

Phishing, which has risen by 350% since the pandemic began according to a Google Report, is a cybercrime perpetrated by persons or groups who contact potential victims posing as legitimate institutions to lure them into providing private data, such as banking and credit card details, passwords, or personal identification information.

Phishing Threatens to Derail Deals

According to Interpol, an increase in cyberattacks has left both individuals and businesses vulnerable. 

Mark Coetzee, Head of Buyers Trust, a subsidiary of ooba Home Loans, says that this too affects the real estate sector with large transactions are taking place daily. “The risk is two-fold,” adds Coetzee. “Agents are at risk of losing the buyer’s deposit, and as a result the entire deal while buyers are at risk of losing their hard-earned deposits.”

He adds: “Fees paid in the home buying process are substantial, and the e-mail trails in some cases are easily accessible, leaving all parties open to the risk of phishing”,

These types of crime commonly and easily occur when e-mail records between the agent, buyer, and the respective lawyers to whom the deposit is paid are intercepted and ultimately, ‘phished’.

Cybercriminals will hack into the title company or real estate’s system to study the language used, the format of the information, and the transactions, to ensure they appear informed and legitimate in order to commit convincing fraud.

Protect Yourself from Scammers

With so many people working remotely and the security risks this poses, Coetzee says that vigilance is key. “On the office network, most parties were protected by various layers of security. However, the process of installing this level of security at a home office level is still lacking”

All parties should stick to the golden rule: If something feels ‘off’, go with your gut. “Contact the relevant parties via phone to confirm and do your due diligence prior to responding on a platform like e-mail, which can be easily intercepted.” says Coetzee.

Why Buyers Trust?

“Buyers Trust is specifically designed to securely store often hefty deposit amounts, without risk of interception. Buyers Trust allows you full visibility of your deposit at all times, in an account that is in your own name, so you’ll have 100% peace of mind of the safety of your deposit.”

Benefits of Buyers Trust include:

  • An added layer of high-level security, as their deposit will be secured with one of South Africa’s major banks, making it comparable to a bank guarantee, but without the hefty price tag.
  • The buyer retains more control over their investment, as the account is opened in their own name.
  • Buyers experience greater transparency, as they will have access to statements any time.
  • Buyers will achieve a highly competitive Return on Investment (ROI).
  • Peace-of-mind for both parties knowing that the buyer’s deposit is safe.

“Buyers Trust is regulated by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority and takes comprehensive measures to combat fraud and ensure the security of buyers’ home deposits. As well as the added security, buyers are more likely to receive better interest on their deposits than if they had chosen to leave the handling of their finances to a transfer attorney,” concludes Coetzee.

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