When it comes to guarding our personal safety, money is no object. In fact, Americans spend over $20 billion a year on home security systems to protect our families and our belongings. But what about our virtual security?
As technology gets better and better and devices get smaller and smaller, humans become more and more attached to their electronics. But we seem to be forgetting something – these little devices that we take with us everywhere contain all that a crook needs to clean out our bank accounts, disarm our expensive home security systems, and even steal our identities. Criminals are now after information – gone are the days of stolen televisions, these guys want our data. And so cybercrime has grown to the point that Mcafee estimates its global cost at $400 billion. But what are we doing to protect ourselves?
Most of us do not realize just how much faith we put in to our phones and computers. We increasingly communicate by text and email, we pay for things with the touch of a button rather than the touch of a dollar, and we trust that the person we cannot see on the other side of our phone is exactly who it says they are on our screen. But with a very easy technique called spoofing, did you know that anyone can send texts and emails as if they are coming from you?
At Beth Ferester & Company, we recently experienced first-hand just how easily people can be defrauded if everyone is not paying attention. Because real estate transactions involve the transfer of large sums of money, our industry has become a real target for cybercrime. Our own experience mirrored that of many others in the country – as the closing of one of our clients drew near, emails and text messages were sent out specifying wiring instructions for the funds required at closing. This is not uncommon practice but, in this instance, the emails only looked like they were coming from the parties involved. In fact, they were coming from unseen criminals who had learned the art of spoofing. Fortunately, the bank noticed that the wiring instructions were a bit unusual, and no money was misappropriated but there are thousands of incidents just like this that do not end as well.
Unfortunately for all of us, cybercrime is indiscriminate – we are all targets. Data is data and if it leads to a payoff, then that is the only motivation a criminal needs so we must all be more vigilant. Think about the passwords you set, question the emails you receive, be more discerning about the information you share through social media and, possibly more importantly than anything else, pick up the phone now and then. Hearing a familiar voice is sometimes all the assurance you need.
Knowledge is our best defense – at Beth Ferester & Company, we recently attended a course on cybercrime because protecting our clients and our business is a priority.
To learn more about cybercrime and how you can protect yourself, click on the links below.