You see a ton of real estate articles about advice on home buying. The best way to search for homes, how to write an offer, how to deal with home inspection issues…… but today we are going to talk about cyber security when buying a home. This is an ultra important topic. For many home buying consumers this is not something they have to worry about on a daily basis so not much thought is given to cyber security.
Securing your vital data and information is important in any business. When you are involved in purchasing a home there can be a lot of shuffling of document with some of your most vital information.
Information You Need to Protect From Cyber Criminals
Because real estate transactions is fast moving it is easy to forget about cyber security basics. But, it is important to think about cyber security when buying a home.
There are going to be three parties you are going to be dealing with in a real estate transaction that may be asking for sensitive information when you buy a home. That is your real estate agent, mortgage originator and the tile/closing company.
Here is a list of items/documents you will want to consider carefully when it comes to cyber security when purchasing a home:
- Bank Account Information. This includes checking and savings but also retirement accounts and investment accounts.
- Copies of Checks. Checks contain your routing number and account number.
- Social Security Numbers and Birth Dates. A lot of havoc can be wreaked with just those two pieces of information by cyber criminals.
- Credit Card Accounts and Other Lines of Credit. Your statement will have account numbers for cyber criminals to access.
- W2’s, 1099’s Tax Forms etc… will all contain sensitive information.
- Loan Applications are also packed full of your sensitive information as well.
- Closing Documents may contain account numbers and social security numbers.
Basically, peruse any documents that may contain your SSN and or account numbers and make sure that they are delivered in a secure manner.
Cyber Security Scam Home Buyers Need to Be Aware Of
Recently there has been a cyber scam attacking home buyers that was serious enough for the federal trade commission to issue a warning.
Scammers phish email accounts of real estate agents and title/closing companies to gather information on an upcoming real estate closings. Then they assume the identity of the agent or closing agents identity by email and ask you to wire the closing funds to a certain account.
Of course the money is then sent to an offshore account that cannot be traced.
6 Tips to Prevent Cyber Theft of Sensitive Information
So how do you deal with sensitive documents.
Never Send Information of Documents Thru Email that are Not Encrypted
If you email or document is not encrypted don’t send any sensitive information. An encrypted document or email is password protected will require a password.
Black Out or Cover The Sensitive Information
If you are quickly sending a copy of a check or a bank statement to verify the amount just black out the information with a magic marker or cover the area with piece of paper that hold the area of the information you are trying to protect..
Drop Off the Documents in Person
Dropping off the documents in person or having your real estate agent or mortgage originator pick up any sensitive document will certainly ensure the documents get to the right person.
Upload to Secure Websites Only
Most of your sensitive data and information will be between you and your mortgage originator. As explained by John Marroni of New Fed Mortgage you can securely upload your documents into their website.
How can you tell if your connection is secure? Your URL in the address bar will start with an https instead of http.
Https is communication that is agreed on between the two computers that scrambles the code. Only the two computers have the key to unscramble the code.
Pass Sensitive Information Over the Phone
Pass on sensitive info like SSN or passwords over the phone instead of the body of an email. For example, when I send an encrypted email, I always pass on the password over the phone.
Be Wary Of Any Request By Email for Sensitive Information
Email servers and clients can be compromised by cyber criminals. Never respond to an email request for information that you were not informed of prior to the email. If you do receive a request verify with the person who sent the email that they indeed send the request.
Final Thoughts on Cyber Security When Buying Home
Protecting your information from cyber thieves starts with you. Don’t be afraid to ask how your sensitive data is handled or how you should handle it with your real estate agent, mortgage broker and title company. It is ultimately your responsibility.
The mortgage process is probably the most document intensive part of buying a home and the shuffle of documents is probably not something your used to. Just take a few minutes visually scan a document to see if their is data on their you don’t want getting in to the hands of cyber criminals before shooting off an email.
If there is sensitive data do not send it in an unencrypted email or text for that matter. Find an alternative that does not expose your data to the invisible prying eyes on the internet.
- Jason Polancich Protect Your Self From Cyber Criminals During Your Purchase
- Paul Sian Real Estate Scams to Be Wary Of
- Bill Gassett Top Real estate Scams
- Washington Post How to Protect Your Data During A Real Estate Transaction
Cyber Security When Buying a Home, was provided by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate of Tewksbury MA. If you would like to sell or buy a home give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford