Imagine this: Your client is ready to purchase their first home. You share bank details with them via email and SMS. Unfortunately, this leaves you open to the rising trend in hackers intercepting your email or text messages.
They pose as you, sending a further communication to your client ‘updating’ them about new deposit account details, thereby redirecting the deposit into fraudulent bank accounts.
A successful hacking attempt can lead to significant financial loss, reputational damage and insurance and litigation issues.
The threat of cybercrime is fast becoming an everyday reality for businesses across Australia, with real estate agents in particular a hot target for cyber attacks.
Hackers are focused on infiltrating large value transactions – this makes the property market especially alluring as it involves constant high-value money transfers between several parties.
Hackers become experts at breaking into email accounts and following transactions as they progress, so they can strike while the iron is hot.
They know when your client is ready to transfer the deposit and they send a perfectly-timed email from the hacked account with false bank details to redirect funds into their own accounts.
Australia’s strong economy, along with high rates of internet and new technology adoption, has made our country, and in particular small to medium businesses, a lucrative target for attacks.
In fact, 45 per cent of companies were attacked by online criminals between 2016 and 2018, up from 33 per cent in 2015.
There are strategies agents can implement to both grow their business and bolster their capabilities, especially when it comes to cyber security measures.
- Educate yourself, your staff and your clients on the risks
Know the risks of cyber security and what you can do to protect your firm. Your firm is only as strong as the person with the least amount of training. The biggest threat to cyber security is people: you, your employees, your partners and your clients. It may only take one absentminded click or keying in the wrong email address, and you could be facing a serious data breach. That’s why education and awareness are key. All businesses should have cyber security training and procedures in place to ensure vigilance and best practice.
To educate your employees and clients; tell your clients what kind of communications they can expect from you and educate them about potential phishing scams so that they are aware. Include a disclaimer in your emails to further emphasise the importance of verifying account details.
- Use purpose-built technology to keep safe
To help agents and their clients from losing funds during a property exchange, InfoTrack introduced Securexchange. The product aims to protect property transactions from hackers by allowing property buyers, sellers, real estate agents and lawyers to communicate and confirm bank account details in the one, secure and safe environment.
Real estate agents need to protect their clients’ sensitive information and should use software tools to do so. The key to Securexchange is that only verified parties can view trust account and deposit information, streamlining communication between those parties and offering transparency over the progress of the exchange.
Based on client research, there was no safe alternative to email in the market. The real estate industry needed a secure way to provide and confirm bank account details that could not be hacked by cyber criminals. As the leading tech provider to the legal industry, InfoTrack already had several highly-secure websites catering to property transactions and felt a duty to develop a solution to protect our clients from deposit theft.
Ultimately, if you have educated your staff and clients, you should be able to rely on your technology provider to give your business the best chance at staying safe against hackers. Fake emails will only become more sophisticated, and purpose-built technology can help you.