According to Wikipedia, identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name, and perhaps to the other person’s disadvantage or loss. Nowadays, this has become a big threat to all of us. With the booming technology and easy access, even the real estate sector has been endangered. Large volume of credit card thefts has been recorded and so there’s risk of information leakage. In 2012, there were 12.6 million cases of identity theft in the US alone, an increase of over one million people since 2009. Real estate agents need to be alert to protect themselves from these credit card frauds.
Here are some tips that could protect real estate clients from these modus operandi.
Get the details of transaction
Real estate agents need to be attentive with any kind of credit card transaction pertaining to the deals they are handling. Make sure to exchange information in a very discreet manner, store it as safe as you possibly can. Consider keeping a personal safe for your home as well as a safety deposit box elsewhere. And also, examine your bank account statements monthly to ensure that your accounts have no unauthorized charges.
Paperwork should be secured
Lots of paperwork is involved in a credit card transaction. Chances are that the vital information of your transactions with a client are saved on papers, with just one glimpse, everything could be copied. This is really dangerous for you and your client. Make sure to lock it up, encrypt it and protect it with a password. An impersonal combination of letters and numbers is the best. Protect your computer or mobile phone with anti-spyware and anti-virus software. Make sure you keep them up to date.
Get the explanation
Both parties, be it a real estate agent or the clients, should get the details of each document and be perfectly aware about the transaction details. Don’t just let your clients pass information like Social Security numbers, credit card data or addresses, tell them to be more protective about the details. Do not reveal personal information to unverified sources whether over the phone or the Internet. Do not feel pressured to answer personal questions if you do not trust the source. Feel free to request verifying before giving anything up.
Maintain the legal way
Make sure that the client receives the important documents as per the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acts. Check details on the RESPA documents, it should not have an SSN on them and never, ever write an SSN on any forms at the closing. If you really need to write it on, it’s important to check if the client has already completed a W-9 form with his or her taxpayer’s ID number on it.
Source: realtytimes.com, Wikipedia, WikiHow, identitytheftkiller.com, ctoscredit.com.my, consumerreports.org, turbotax.intuit.com
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