Earlier this year, the FBI issued a warning about evolving wire transfer email scams, which have hit the real estate industry particularly hard. From 2015 through 2017, there was a 1,100 percent rise in the number of real estate scams and a staggering 2,200 percent increase in reported monetary loss as a result.

These statistics – along with the increasing sophistication of online fraud schemes – are a clarion call to always be vigilant online.

We recommend that you take proactive steps to guard against online fraud. Among them:

  • Be aware of suspicious phone calls, emails and text messages asking you to send money or disclose personal information. If a “service rep” calls you, hang up and call back using a known phone number.
  • Never share sensitive information or conduct business via email, as accounts are often compromised.
  • Beware of “phishing schemes” and malicious links. Urgent-sounding, legitimate-looking emails are intended to tempt you to accidentally disclose personal information or inadvertently install malware. (Phishing, if you’re not familiar with the term, is email purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce you to reveal personal information, such as passwords and account numbers.)
  • Don’t open links or attachments from unknown sources. Instead, you can open the web address in your browser.
  • Check your email and account statements regularly for suspicious activity.
  • Never enter confidential information in public areas. Assume someone is always watching.

There are several other steps you also should take, such as exercising caution when moving money out of your accounts. Speak with your advisor about the steps we take to safeguard transactions.

To protect yourself against hacking, be sure to use strong password principles. Create a unique, complex password for each site and change it every six months. Consider using a password manager, like LastPass, to simplify the process and keep track of all of your passwords.

Keep your technology up to date. Always be sure your web browser, operating system, antivirus and antispyware software are current. Turn off bluetooth when it’s not needed. And dispose of old hardware safely by performing a factory reset or removing and destroying all data storage devices.

Use caution on websites and social media. Don’t visit websites you don’t know that pop up on your screen. Log out completely to terminate access when exiting all websites. Don’t use public computers or public wi-fi networks. Instead, use a personal hotspot. Be cautious when accepting friend requests on social media. And limit sharing information on social media sites. Assume fraudsters can see everything, even if you have strong privacy settings on your accounts.

For greater protection and piece of mind, consider a subscription to an identity protection service such as InfoArmor, which we are offering to clients.

To learn more, visit the Stop, Think, Connect cybersafety education program.

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