(It’s a lot to say – SupercaliFRAUDulisticexpialidocious)
Email can be sinister. It can encourage changes (not
authorized, not legitimate), it can “warn” recipients of dire
circumstances if instructions are not followed, it can be shaped and branded to
look like an institution all parties are familiar with, and it can assist in
fraud that involves any number of untoward outcomes – like clients’ and
institutions’ funds being pilfered.
The U.S. Government has a
phrase for such criminal action: Business Email Compromise/Email Account
Compromise (BEC/EAC). That wordy title speaks to two crimes.
are carried out by compromising legitimate business email accounts. The EAC component
of the scam refers to the targeting of consumers and the lenders, real estate
professionals, attorneys and others who serve them.
More information on
BEC/EAC fraud prevention and recovery can be found on our Education
It can be daunting to try
to wrap one’s brain around every single possibility and scenario that could
trip someone up – and trick someone into giving away information that affords a
thief the opportunity to steal funds.
Below is a list that,
while not necessarily “completely memorizable” – even if studied, can
serve as a red flag for knowing when something is awry.
It can serve as warning to
be wary of the many and various paths that crooks can take to defraud
legitimate people conducting real estate transactions.
Exercise extreme caution when weighing any
request to change wire instructions. Encourage all parties to do the same.
Be wary of any email, phone call or other
communication that involves threats, high pressure language (e.g. markings,
assertions, or language designating the transaction request as “Urgent,”
“Secret,” or “Confidential,”) or warns of “dire consequences” if immediate
action isn’t taken.
Be wary of emails with missing or unusual
Be wary of any request to change wiring
instructions, especially any last-minute requests.
Be wary of emails that include poor spelling or
grammar, are overly formal or that are written in a style uncharacteristic of
the purported sender. Also, beware of emails that misuse industry terminology,
for instance, references to the “HUD” instead of the “Closing Disclosure”.
Be wary of any unexpected emails or requests,
including internal requests purportedly from executives or others.
Be wary of emails sent at odd hours.
Be wary of any communication seeking to confirm
information the purported sender should already have.
Beware of sudden changes in business practices.
For example, if a current business contact suddenly asks to be contacted via a
personal email address, it’s best to verify the legitimacy of the request via
Review monthly escrow statements from the
Receiving Bank (the one holding the agent’s escrow account) as soon as
available to verify that all expected funds have actually been received.
Have a written agreement in place with the
Receiving Bank (the agent’s bank which holds the escrow account and receives
the agent’s payment order) that the Receiving Bank will match all names,
addresses, account numbers, routing number and beneficiary bank name on the
payment order with where and to whom the funds are actually sent. Or put
instructions on the payment order for the Receiving Bank to verify
authorization by matching all of this information.
Emailed transaction instructions directing wire
transfers to a foreign bank account that has been documented in customer
complaints as the destination of fraudulent transactions.
Emailed transaction instructions directing
payment to a beneficiary with which the customer has no payment history or
documented business relationship, and the payment is in an amount similar to or
in excess of payments sent to beneficiaries whom the customer has historically
Emailed transaction instructions delivered in a
way that would give the financial institution limited time or opportunity to
confirm the authenticity of the requested transaction.
Emailed transaction instructions originating
from a customer’s employee who is a newly authorized person on the account or
is an authorized person who has not previously sent wire transfer instructions.
A customer’s employee or representative emailing
financial institution transaction instructions on behalf of the customer that
are based exclusively on email communications originating from executives,
attorneys, or their designees when the customer’s employee or representative
indicates he/she has been unable to verify the transactions with such
executives, attorneys, or designees.
A customer emailing transaction requests for
additional payments immediately following a successful payment to an account
not previously used by the customer to pay its suppliers/vendors. Such behavior
may be consistent with a criminal attempting to issue additional unauthorized
payments upon learning that a fraudulent payment was successful.
Review and revisit this list of tips when
handling suspicious wire requests, before the exchange of funds takes place.
Verify all wire instructions with an alternate
method of communication.
Check emails to ensure the sender’s address has
not been altered. Fraudsters typically use email addresses that closely
resemble a seller’s (or any party’s) actual email address.
Do not open unknown or unverified hyperlinks or
downloads. Tip: Hovering your mouse over the sender’s email address may reveal
a different email address. Caution: Do not hover over unknown links within the
body of a suspect email. Security experts formerly recommended hovering as a
way to determine the validity of such links. However, newer strains of malware
may infect a computer when the user merely hovers over the link.
Delete unsolicited emails from unknown sources.
In the case of an invoice, verify any changes
in vendor payment location and confirm requests for transfer of funds.
Every year the U.S. government comes out with a growing
list of warnings on cyber fraud, real estate fraud, email fraud – the list goes
on cyber fraud, real estate fraud, email fraud – the list
Some warnings are common sense: delete suspicious-looking
emails, don’t give away banking information or social security numbers, never
wire anyone money without triple checking – and then checking again.
We’re committed to ensuring that all independent agents
have every new (and standard) information source available, even as the rules
and the threats multiply and expand almost every month.
It used to be that personal recommendations solidified
decisions, but in today’s fast-moving digital orbit, news about your company
travels differently, and online reviews—think Yelp, Google and Facebook—are a
primary source of feedback.
A 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by
Brightlocal.com reported that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as
much as personal recommendations and that 57 percent of consumers will only use
a business if it’s rated four stars or higher.
Suffice it to say that online reviews are remarkably
Not everyone responds to reviews, but there are several
reasons why you should (even if they’re negative), including the fact that replying
to feedback shows that you’re paying attention to your clients and customers,
you’re not afraid of transparency and your business is all about building
The goal is to convert fans of your business into super-fans
and offer disappointed reviewers an acceptable resolution, which often leads to
a revised review or inspiration to remove a negative one. While there are
multiple ways to respond to reviews – the positive and the negative – follow
these tips to put the face of your business in the best light.
Be pleasant and don’t hurl insults:When
a client or consumer is frustrated, they’re ready to fight. The last thing your
business wants to do is fuel the fire or burn bridges, so when you’re
responding to negative reviews, take a deep breath, be courteous and polite and
provide solutions when feasible.
A little sympathy goes a long way in defusing an unpleasant
situation. If you sense that the dialogue is taking a turn for the worse,
suggest settling the matter offline, far away from judgmental public eyes.
Keep your responses short and to the point: Social media users are looking to digest information quickly. If they want to read a novel, they’ll grab their Kindle or head to the bookstore. Keep your responses brief and genuine and stay on topic.
Thank those who post positive reviews: While handwritten “thank you” notes are, sadly, a thing of
the past, clicking the “Like” button on a positive Facebook comment takes a
second. Literally. Typing “Thank you for the kind words!” takes four seconds – five
if your typing skills need work.
You don’t have to thank every single person, but if someone
takes the time to write a favorable review, it’s a good idea to show your
Don’t be a salesperson: When
a user writes a review, it’s usually proof that they’ve already interacted with
your business, so there’s no need to tell them what they already know.
If you have something new to share about your business, it’s
fine to share, but make sure the content isn’t spammy or irrelevant.
Let clients and customers know that you loved working with them: Want to turn a
customer or client into repeat customers or clients? If they post a glowing
review, let them know how much you enjoyed working with them – and you’d
welcome the opportunity to do so again.
If you want people to continue to work with your business, you
need to let them know that you’re the kind of business that welcomes them back.
Gone are the days
when branding was limited to simply promoting a product or a business.
Today, companies are
increasingly being challenged to incorporate a meaningful purpose into their marketing
and advertising campaigns.
research, 75 percent of consumers – here and abroad
– expect businesses to contribute to their personal wellbeing and quality of
life, while 84 percent expect brands to provide content that entertains, tells
stories, provides solutions and creates experiences and events.
Purpose is especially important when marketing to
percent of whom say they’re
partial to brands that implement environmental and social change into their
A new biometric
research report from Porter Novelli/Cone, published earlier this week, goes
even further in suggesting that purposeful content should lead the narrative of
“Purpose ignites physical and
emotional responses: Purpose-driven
advertisements were more effective in two-out-of-three brand categories tested,
with higher levels of attention, emotion and arousal from these advertisements
overall,” the study found.
other words, businesses that are searching for ways to build – and
maintain – customer loyalty would be wise
to focus on purposeful messaging that supports, for example, responsible
business practices, a charity or a social cause.
Purpose builds deeper bonds
Other key findings
in the report suggested that purpose builds deeper bonds.
A whopping 79
percent of Americans, noted the study, said they feel a deeper and more personal
connection to companies with values aligned with their own. Moreover,
respondents said they’d be more likely to feel better about brands with
And that’s not all:
brand advocates and amplification,” research showed.
viewing purpose-driven advertisements, those who were surveyed also said they’d
be more likely to talk about the advertisement and the brand with friends and
family and share and discuss the advertisement on social media.
the biggest takeaway, though, is this: Nearly 73
percent of respondents said that given the current social and political
climate, they feel an urgency to support social issues, while 76 percent noted
that businesses dedicated to addressing social and environmental issues helps
them feel like they’re doing their part.
About the study
The research combined an
online study of more than 1,000 American adults with the results of biometrics
testing among a select group of respondents.
It measured facial, heart
rate and skin conductance impulses that captured levels of emotion, attention
and arousal/stimulation upon viewing a randomized set of advertisements.
Respondents viewed two ads
from the same brand: a Purpose-driven advertisement (e.g., support of a social
issue, responsible business practice) and an advertisement focusing on the
functional attributes of the product (e.g., performance, features or
The research found that purpose-driven
messaging has a greater ability to capture the physical and emotional attention
of respondents compared to functional narratives.
If you’re exploring the rental market, it may be time to lower your expectations when it comes to landlord discounts, gift cards or complimentary amenities, writes Diana Olick, real estate correspondent at CNBC.com
As the rental market heats up and home ownership cools, rent prices are rising and freebies are falling out of favor.
Listings on HotPads, Zillow’s rental website, that mention at least one concession are down nearly 30 percent from the same time last year, and just one in 100 rental listings currently show any kind of move-in special.
Remember the days prior to social media? Nor do we. Just
about every business – big and small – has a designated social media manager or
consultant that’s responsible for tweets, content posts, audience engagement,
follows, shares, comments, insight and data reports and messaging.
It’s a big job that goes far beyond those “likes” and
shares. To be a social media pro, you’ve got to master some skills.
Be creative: To stand out among your competitors, you need to create a dynamic and persuasive visual content across all your social media platforms.
Images, polls, invitations, posters, graphs, videos and
illustrations don’t have to be in every post, but the eye loves visuals, and
the more visuals you incorporate into your posts, the better chance you have of
being noticed in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded field.
Inspire conversation: Interacting
and engaging with your audience (think potential clients) is crucial to social
media success – and that includes responding to comments in a
Whether it’s a simple
acknowledgement of thanks to someone who has responded positively to a post, a
call to action for someone posing a question or a conversation starter that
opens dialogue, you need to know how to foster communication.
That, in turn, encourages
your audience to share your content, which increases your post’s longevity. And
sharing content grows you audience and results in leads and “likes.”
To post engaging ads, take
advantage of Facebook’s Ads Manager, a powerful tool that enables businesses to
launch campaigns that reach a large audience.
Live video has the kind of human
touch that doesn’t exist in text, and social media audiences can’t get enough
Shooting spontaneous short
videos on your smartphone and streaming them live on your social media
platforms has become easier than ever with recent technological advances, and
the content can range from entertaining to informative (or both).
Live streams tend to be more personable and
authentic than text posts, and studies have shown that social media audiences
overwhelmingly prefer live video.
Sixty-five percent of homeowners nationwide view buying a house in their zip code as a “somewhat good” or “very good” financial investment, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Housing Expectations.
As well, existing homeowners are eager to
invest more in their homes, says the report, noting that the percentage of
homeowners expecting to invest at least $5,000 in their homes over the next one
to three years continues to increase.