The Internet is a tremendous resource and essential tool to help you in your real estate research, communications, and transactions. And with those opportunities come real risk. Almost every day, we hear about fraud, phishing emails, online identity theft or other cyber security risks, and that’s why it’s critical that we actively protect ourselves and advise our clients when working, researching or simply browsing online.
We include an Anti-Fraud Disclosure Statement in every agency representation agreement packet which we have clients read and sign. We strongly recommend clients to not use generic free email accounts such as gmail.com, yahoo.com, aol.com, outlook.com, and other popular services because, in our experience, these are the most often and easily hacked email accounts in what can be your most significant financial transaction ever.
Our Anti-Fraud Disclosure Statement emphasizes:
You should never transmit nonpublic personal information, such as credit or debit card, bank account or routing numbers, by email or other unsecured electronic communication. Emails attempting to induce fraudulent wire transfers may appear to come from a Trusted source.
Other Safety Tips
Another easy way to stay safe is by ensuring you are protected with passwords that are difficult for someone to figure out. To help you do so, we have put together some basic password safety tips.
Use long and strong passwords
At the end of each year, a list is released of the top 25 most common passwords from the previous year. Below are the passwords that were on this list last year.
There is a commonality to almost every password on this list. Type some of the passwords that don’t look like the others, and you’ll notice the similarities. For example, “zxcvbnm” looks difficult to figure out until you realize that it is all the letters, from left to right, on the bottom of your keyboard.
If you have a password that is the same as, or similar to, one of those listed above, we recommend that you change it. When changing your password, there are several things you should do.
- Make sure your new password is “complex”—that means, it contains at least one of each items listed below:
- Capital letter
- Lowercase letter
- Special character (ie. !@#$%^&)
- Make sure that the password is not a variation of your (or any family members’) names
- Ensure that the password is not a variation of any of the items that you have shared on your website or social media profiles
After you have changed your password, you need to make sure to keep it secure. The following tips will help you do that.
Don’t leave your password out in the open.
Make sure that you don’t have it written down, or on a piece of paper where anyone can see it. Common places where people leave their passwords are on the inside of a laptop where it can be seen when the laptop is open or underneath a keyboard.
Change it regularly.
You should change your passwords on a regular basis. The maximum recommended amount of time you should wait is 90 days.
Don’t provide your password to anyone.
Your password not only allows you to access tools, but it also provides what is called a “timestamp” as to the time and date that you accessed an application.
Remember, these are just a few recommendations to help you stay safe online, and there are numerous other resources, like the National Cyber Security Alliance (StaySafeOnline.org), that you can visit for added safety recommendations.