As business owners, real estate agents have a lot of their professional information online. It’s easy to find, and unfortunately, that means it’s easy to abuse.
Sometimes you can’t stop someone from using your professional information in a wrong way, but you can help report the issue and avoid falling victim to scams using other Realtors’® professional information.
An Iowa Realtor®, Wendy Dietz, has been dealing with a nightmare email scam for over a year. A scammer created fake email addresses under her name and has been emailing other real estate agents claiming to have customers interested in their listings. Those who were responded were sent an attachment or Google Drive link that had a virus.
What to Do If You’re Used in a Scam
Unfortunately, for this type of email scam, there’s nothing that the user can do to prevent their name from being misused. However, there are steps you can take to keep your real email account secure and avoid having your legitimate contacts stolen.
Some steps that can help secure your email include:
- Keep your eyes open. Make sure nothing in your email, including junk mail and your sent folder, looks unusual.
- Use virus software and keylogging blockers all the time. Yes, occasionally they block something that isn’t a problem, but it’s well worth it for all the actual hacks that are also blocked.
- Don’t send confidential information via email.
- Use strong passwords and don’t do business on unsecured or public wi-fi.
- Most of all, if your identity is stolen in this way, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), FBI, and local authorities.
When you take steps to keep your email and private information secure, you’re less likely to have someone break into your real email account. The other scam relies on fake email addresses, which others can be on the lookout for.
Avoid Being Taken By a Scam
On the other side, there’s a lot more a recipient can do to avoid being fooled by a scam. It’s also vital to report scam emails to your broker, your email provider, and the person who’s identity has been stolen.
To avoid being fooled by a scam email:
- Pay attention to the from email address. In the case of Wendy Dietz, the from email address did not match any of her actual contact information. That’s a clear giveaway that the email is not from her.
- Notice grammar mistakes. Often scammers are not native English speakers and the text of an email will give away that it’s not from the supposed sender. In Wendy’s case, the email being sent was one single run-on sentence, asking recipients for help in their “area of expert.” If it doesn’t sound like it’s from a professional, it’s probably not.
- Never open links or attachments for information unless you know for sure it’s legitimate. If you have any doubt, call the sender to verify that the attachment is real and safe.
- Report scam emails by clicking on your email providers “Report spam” or “Report phishing” button. Enough reports can get a scammers IP address blocked.
It’s hard to prevent scam emails from being sent, but it’s much easier to detect them and avoid falling for the trap. By taking these steps, you’re less likely to be victimized.
It’s an unfortunate reality that the internet gives us both opportunities and dangers. If someone can steal money or information using fake emails, they will try to do it. Do your best to secure your real email account, and as a recipient be careful what you open and respond to. Together, we can keep each other safe.