Navigating the cybersecurity risks in property transactions

Adrian Goslett disscuses how individuals and real estate professionals involved in property transactions must remain vigilant against cyber threats.

In an increasingly digital world, property transactions are no exception to the migration towards online platforms. While the convenience of this online migration offers numerous advantages, it also introduces cybersecurity risks that can have devastating consequences for its victims.

“Whether you are buying, selling, or leasing real estate, individuals and real estate professionals involved in these deals must remain vigilant against cyber threats,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

These days, cyber criminals are incredibly good at mimicking reputable businesses so that clients think that they are dealing with the real deal. For this reason, Goslett recommends that clients always double check and do some research to ensure that they are working with a reputable agent or related brand:

(1) To verify that they are who they say they are, Google the cell number and email address that the agent / transferring attorney is using to correspond with you. Typically, that number and email address should correspond with the number and email address that is on their profile on the agency’s / brand’s website.

(2) Beware of email spoofing. Double check that the email address is an exact match with your agent’s / conveyancer’s email address or that it corresponds exactly with a reputable brand’s URL. The subject line will also typically look suspicious (i.e. it contains a typo or contains the sender’s email address).

(3) Google the portal on which you found the property listing and look at reviews on the property portals you are using. Any property that is listed on a property portal should also be on the agency’s own website so if it’s not, that is a reason to be wary. Be very cautious if you find a property listing that is only on social media and does not appear on any other property portal or agency website.

(4) Never pay money to anyone unless you can verify that they are a legitimate operator. Never trust somebody who only reaches out to you via social media and asks for payments. There should never be any large sum payments due until a written lease agreement or offer to purchase has been signed by both parties involved. Thereafter, it is typically the transferring attorney involved in the sale or the real estate agent involved in the lease agreement who handles all payments. Be very weary of anyone who provides personal bank account details (and not a verified business bank account) or requires cash when arranging for payment.

“As property transactions continue to migrate towards digital platforms, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. Mitigating cyber risks requires a proactive approach. When you are aware of the risks and choose to work through reputable brands and portals, it becomes much easier to navigate the complexities of property transactions with confidence in the face of evolving cyber threats,” Goslett concludes.

Writer: Kayla Ferguson

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