With online auctions available to purchase properties at the click of a mouse, it is essential to know how to protect yourself and your information online. At Merchant of Homes, we care about your online safety and keeping your data secure.
Online scams and fraud is the use of websites or online software to take advantage of someone to steal their money or identity. Millions of dollars are lost each year to these crimes and can affect any one of any age.
Here are some simple, yet essential tips for protecting yourself from online scams and fraud:
Don’t Answer Unsolicited Emails Or Open Unknown Email Attachments
Never give out personal information to unknown emails or entities, especially if they are unsolicited. This includes:
- Account numbers
- Wiring instructions
If you receive unsolicited emails or unknown email attachments, do not open them or answer them. These could contain viruses that can infect your computer and steal information. Remember that reputable companies, like Merchant of Homes, will never ask you for your password. If in doubt, call your agent.
If you must email account numbers or personal information to your realtor, send it via a secure file-sharing service like Google Docs that can be password protected.
Use Strong Passwords
When signing up for an online account, such as one with Merchant of Homes, always choose a strong password with at least eight characters and a combination of symbols, letters, and numbers. For example, “5Er!x31@” is considered a strong password while “Password123!” is not.
If you have trouble remembering passwords, use a secure password manager, like Bitwarden. These programs are opened with a secure master password that will store all of your login information. Just remember to write down your master password and keep it in a safe place! If you forget it, you will not be able to access your manager or recover the password.
Verbally Confirm Any Wire Transactions
Before you send any money via wire, such as for a real estate closing, call the person requesting the wire to confirm the legitimacy of the request. This will ensure that the wire is sent to the right person.
Never wire money to strangers.
Report Scams & Fraud
Reporting scams and fraud is critical in helping law enforcement keep current on what techniques criminals are using and educate people on how to protect themselves.
For internet scams, report the crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or use their online tip hotline. For instances of mortgage fraud, contact parties such as: