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Protect Yourself from Cyber Crime in Real Estate!

With cybercrimes constantly on the rise, how can we protect ourselves in a real estate transaction?

You are correct.  We are unfortunately seeing a continued increase in the frequency of cyber crimes and the real estate industry is not exempt! It is unlikely that many of can get by in millennium America without your devices, so it is important that you be smart with your personal information.  Below are a few suggestions to help protect yourself from cyber crime.

Do not share your social security number with your Realtor.  We don’t need it! When you apply for a mortgage, give it directly to the mortgage company – ideally in person or over the phone.  If you email documents, only do so over a secure and encrypted server that your lender has specifically set up for these purposes.  When it’s time to close there will be forms to fill out. Again, your Realtor should not be the middleman.  Give the completed documents containing your personal information directly to the closing agent.

If you wire funds or provide wire instructions, it is imperative that you verify all instructions verbally before the wire is initiated.  We have had instances right here in Pittsburgh where cyber-criminals have monitored emails and emailed false wire instructions immediately before the wire is initiated, causing the funds to be wired to their own account.  These funds are never recovered – hundreds of thousands of dollars have been lost.  Therefore, if you are going to use a wire to either send or receive funds, be very careful and confirm everything verbally in advance.  Also be sure if you are verifying over the phone that you independently verify the phone number you are calling so that you are certain that the individual you are speaking with really is who they claim to be.

And of course never do business (of any kind) unless you are using a secured WiFi. Most people have password protected their WiFi by now, but if you have not, move that to the top of your to do list!

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
Associate Broker
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238

Say Cheese!

We recently viewed a home that is on the market, only to find out the seller was taping the showing – we were stunned. Is this common?

Welcome to the age of cheap technology!  If you are viewing a home, whether at an open house to at a private showing, these days you must assume that you are being filmed.  There are many systems that are available, from ring to nest to cameras installed as part of a home security system.  They are fairly inexpensive, are often not recognizable as cameras and frequently record sound as well as video.  Sellers typically install them as part of a home security or doorbell system – they are not usually installed just to spy on buyers and their agents.  Typically homeowners have security in mind when they install these systems.  But when their home goes on the market, these systems do provide a handy way to see firsthand what people are saying about their home.  So yes, it has become reasonably commonplace to be filmed at a minimum around the doors of a home, but often inside as well. The owners can usually access these videos in live time on their tablet or phone, and they are also recorded for later review.

Knowing this, I would suggest that you simply revert to old-fashioned good manners when viewing homes.  Don’t say anything near or in someone else’s home that you wouldn’t want to see on YouTube!  Don’t criticize the seller’s décor choices or the condition of the home – it may come back to haunt you if, after reviewing the inventory, you decide that it was in fact the best option for you, only to find out that you unintentionally offended the sellers.  Sure its ok to make factual observations, but you should refrain from judging.  Save all commentary for when you are back in the car with your agent.

If you are viewing the home with children, be mindful of their behavior as well.  Keep them with you at all times. Be sure that they are not running or jumping inside of someone else’s home or touching their things. Have a hard time managing high energy children at an open house or showing?  Schedule a babysitter so that you can view the home without having to worry about monitoring their every move.

In this day of minimal privacy and cheap technology, the best approach is to assume you could very well be on Candid Camera!

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As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.