The easy answer of course is yes, because anyone who can fog a mirror and lives in society is a target for scams. No one is immune to bad people attempting to do bad things through, with, or to them and that is simply a reality in our connected global village. The conman no longer has to ride into town and ingratiate themselves into people's lives to pull off the con. Modern technology invites mass deception into our communication-driven lives and we need to be aware of it.
Let’s look at some of the most commonly reported scams currently floating out there targeting REALTORS® and how to protect against them.
The single most common scam perpetrated against REALTORS® is the “Qualified leads” scam. I am not saying there are no valid providers of leads out there, but that is part of the rub because the value of a truly qualified list of leads to a Realtor® building a client base is tempting. The reason why a qualified list of leads raises to scam level is because what is advertised as a list of qualified buyers or investors for example assumes that all names on the list are ready to do business now or in the near term, but few consider the source of the data.
Most commonly these lead lists are compiled from:
In the case of data breaches and skimming, the data may be a result of criminal activity, and for those collected by solicitation of phone or email, Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) and the National Do Not Call List (NDNCL) are applicable and not followed. This makes nearly all of these “qualified leads” lists like a leg-hold bear trap that should be avoided.
If a Realtor® believes a lead list service to be legitimate, significant due diligence will be required to determine that all the information was gathered by legal means and within CASL and NDNCL legislation which will almost certainly outweigh the value of the list being purchased.
When a fisherman, which I am not, goes out on a boat to catch a fish they put a big fat juicy delicious something on a very sharp barbed hook and toss it into the water. A big part of the skill of fishing is twofold as I understand it, knowing where to drop the baited hook, and knowing how to make it dance to attract the fish's attention. Once the fish sees that delicious bait and take a bite, they get the hook too, ultimately resulting in becoming dinner for the fisherman. That is the concept behind “phishing” in the scammy sense.
REALTORS® are busy managing dozens and even hundreds of complex actionable emails daily and what phishing scam counts on is that you don’t look that closely. An email that looks just like an email you are expecting for example pops into the inbox with an action required such as clicking a button to resolve some issue. Clicking the link takes you to a website that appears exactly like the one you normally see from the government, brokerage, bank, or whatever trusted website they are impersonating and tells you to log in for security purposes. The site is designed to have you enter all your username and password combinations and record them for use in hundreds of other applications, usually starting with your email.
The best advice is:
If you believe you may have been part of such a scam, take the day off and use it to change all the passwords you can think of to passwords you have never used before. Don’t end up as a phish dinner.
Too good to be true
This one is silly, but they are getting much more sophisticated. In the past, it has been a situation like a prince from a foreign land who needs to move their money out of the country before a military coup. Now, it’s more about an email from a burger franchise company looking for commercial property in your city, or a buyer moving from Toronto for work and needs to buy a property quickly. These are the generic innocuous tales they spin now via email that sound mundane enough to be true.
I couldn’t pass this one by because it is so prolific that by sheer numbers some folks must be falling for it. As a REALTOR® the public has access to the information needed to learn about you, your broker, and brokerage through the internet as well as your contact information. In most cases of broker favour, by sending an automated text messages to everyone in the brokerage they hope to catch someone off guard.
The text is something like “Hey Pat, it's [broker] I’m at a conference but really need a favor, are you available to help?”. If responded, what follows is usually a request for something redeemable like online gift card with an explanation as to why they can’t grab it themselves. Your broker doesn’t need gift cards. Call your broker and tell them about the message so they can warn others.
All of these scams prey on some part of the entrepreneurial psyche and although they seem ridiculous to many, they continue which means they work. The truly diabolical element to this is it is not generally an individual trying to take from you to feed their family. According to law enforcement, its more commonly vast networks of organized crime using common technologies such as phone, text, and email to target millions of people a day, so that when only a tiny fraction of people are scammed the dollar value is enormous. In 2021 reported fraud in Canada alone resulted in victims losing almost $400M to fraudsters, with much of that becoming revenue for funding criminal acts of all disgusting and terrifying types around the world.
Don’t click things you don’t know, don’t use the same password for everything, and if it is too good to be true it probably is.
Provincial Practice Advisor
Bryan has many years of experience in the real estate industry including over 10 years as a former broker in the Edmonton Region.
Email: email@example.comPhone: 403-209-3619