Can you imagine your business being hacked and your customer information being used by these criminals, then you are held responsible? It made us think – if hackers target real estate transactionscan brokers or teams be vulnerable here?
To get the answer, we spoke with Katie Johnson, General Counsel for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and if you’re a real estate professional, you should read on to learn how to minimize your risk.
Something NAR thought of
NAR has a huge number of resources on this topic, and they’ve clearly been thinking about how to protect the industry for some time.
In his own words, Johnson offers three ways to protect you and your customers from hacking:
1. Create, maintain and track a comprehensive data security program. Many states require companies to maintain written data security policies regarding the collection, use, distribution, and destruction of personally identifiable consumer information. Going through the process of creating such a policy will help members understand what type of personally identifiable information they receive from customers, how it is received (e.g. email, hard copies, text, transaction management tools ) and if necessary.
The policy should also indicate how to properly dispose of this information. NAR posted a data security toolkit to help members create this policy. We also offer a 4 hour lesson for members.
2. Implement good messaging practices. We hear more and more about data breaches resulting from a hacked email account. Therefore, it is important that all email users change their passwords regularly and use complex passwords that would be difficult to guess.
Also, avoid sending sensitive financial information via email whenever possible. If necessary, use encrypted email. Use the latest firewall and antivirus technologies. Avoid using the free Wi-Fi to send emails or conduct business. Regularly clean your email account and avoid opening suspicious emails or attachments.
3. Be paranoid. It is advice that my colleague, Jessica Edgerton gives, and it is very true. If an email, phone call, or social media post seems suspicious, it’s probably best to avoid engaging. If a member believes a violation has occurred, all affected or potentially affected parties, as well as appropriate law enforcement, should be notified as soon as possible.
Moving forward, better informed
Additionally, Johnson notes that they are not aware of any legal liability imposed on NAR members at this time, but she notes that “the possibility is always there because cyber fraud in real estate transactions persists.”
“In addition to legal liability,” adds Johnson, “data breaches can have other adverse effects on a member’s business, such as the time and resources spent implementing new data protection measures. security, training and the need to contact customers who may be affected by the breach”.
Can you honestly say that you already do all of these things? Otherwise, spend some time this month protecting yourself, your team, and most importantly, your customers.