For security purposes, it’s time to change your password. Your new password requirements must be 7-20 characters, must contain a number, a symbol, a capital letter, cannot have the same consecutive characters nor can it resemble a password previously used. Therein lies the challenge that we all have our ‘go-to’ passwords that we use for everything. The internet brings unprecedented speed and convenience to handling your finances and managing your day to day activities. Today’s always-on, go-anywhere communications technology also means it has never been easier for internet bad guys to siphon funds, disrupt transactions and access passwords that lead to other personal accounts which may share the same password. The same systems that allow you to access data from anywhere, handle approvals electronically and manage activities from your smartphone and/or tablet are magnets for sophisticated criminals. To operate safely online, you need to actively protect sensitive information from hackers, steer clear of phishing emails and dangerous websites. With the exception of looking/walking through houses and closings, every piece of the real estate transaction is performed online. Negotiating the offer, repairs, and preparing for closing is all completed through electronic signatures online. It is important for all buyers and sellers to know REALTORS® will NEVER ask you for wiring instructions nor ask for financial, personal information. You will likely share financials with your lender/loan officer so she/he can assist in financing your loan. And a settlement attorney will need to know what your loan payoff is to assist in the closing proceedings. However, REALTORS® do not need that information in our scope of responsibility.
It is estimated that every 2 seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft, and in 2018 alone, 16.7 million people in the United States fell victim to an attack, which totalled more than $16 billion (according to a report by Javelin). Here are a few ways to safeguard yourself from identity theft and other hacking deterrents. Set up your devices with password protection or password managers. Adding a layer of security to deter bad guys may be enough to keep from getting ‘hacked’. Know with whom and why you are sharing sensitive information. As I previously mentioned, REALTORS® will not ask for sensitive information but may direct you to professional services (attorneys, lenders) who may. Don’t forget to check your credit report a few times a year to ensure there is no suspicious activity. Keep personal documents secure. We always advise sellers’ when listing their house to secure sensitive documents, prescription drugs, and firearms. When your house is on the market, know that potential buyers may open cabinets or drawers. As a seller, if you’re preparing for a showing and you throw the new credit cards in the ‘junk drawer’, you’re exposing your credit line with 0% APR and deferred payments until June of 2023. Finally, limit your exposure. Stop offering personal information on sharing the Social Media ‘get to know you’ posts. It may seem innocent enough, but internet bad guys will link vacation hot spots and your kids’ names to decipher your password.
Until next week, Love where you Live. And if you don’t… contact your local REALTOR®.
Brian Haufe, 2022 MBOR President