REALTOR® safety is, and always will be, an important topic. The conversation often revolves around how to protect ourselves when showing homes and meeting with clients, but our online safety can get overlooked. The unfortunate truth is there are many online scams that can harm both REALTORS® and our clients. Here are some online realities to be aware of, and how you can keep yourself safe on the web.
Online activity to watch out for
- Fake LinkedIn emails. LinkedIn is an increasingly important business tool for REALTORS®. However, many scammers use the professional website as a front for their malpractice. Be wary of emails with ambiguous subject lines like “LinkedIn Update” that have impersonal greetings such as “Dear LinkedIn User.” These messages are usually coupled with poor grammar, may contain threats to your account and link to unfamiliar sites. These are absolutely not from LinkedIn, and should be marked as spam and reported to the LinkedIn Safety Center. These scams are a threat to your personal and professional data.
- Suspicious social media comments. Social media is an amazing tool. It allows us to meet new clients and easily advertise homes. But it’s also a popular tool for scammers. Research shows that social media phishing scams are continuously on the rise. Unfortunately, link-shortening websites make these scams harder to spot. Be wary of comments containing offers and catchy wording that are accompanied by links. These scammers may even impersonate real people to carry out these activities.
- Over-the-phone payments. Many companies do not accept personal information or payments over the phone. If you are asked to share your credit card or other personal information over the phone, alarm bells should ring. You should also let your clients know not to make payments over the phone. This is especially important because real estate transactions typically involve large amounts of money.
Being aware of suspicious online activity can help protect you and your data. One Missouri REALTOR®, Anna Hatridge, discovered a phishing scam by paying attention.
“I received several emails that appeared to be from a REALTOR® I had not worked with before. Instead of clicking the link or attachment, I open a new web page and looked up the company and agent. Then I called the business number and asked about the email. This approach alerted an agent, who worked on behalf of an attorney's office, that he had been hacked. It saved both of us a lot of time and grief.”
How to keep yourself safe online
- Never click on the links or call the numbers in suspicious emails.
- When in doubt, check the sender’s email address. You’ll be able to tell if it’s a scam right away.
- Change passwords often.
- Read emails carefully. if details seem incorrect, that’s a red flag.
- Delete spam emails and social media comments.
Have you had any experiences with online scams? If so, share in the comments below. Your stories and advice can help keep other Missouri REALTORS® safe online.