Cybercrime is on the rise and it appears that it is only going to get worse. The dark web is getting really dark. Unfortunately, teaching individuals how to commit a cybercrime is itself not a crime. As our population gets older and older, a larger and larger senior population is being targeted with cybercrimes. Seniors historically are not up to date on current cyber tactics and are the first to be targeted.
In 2020, the Internet complaint center received 105,301 complaints from victims over the age of 60 with total losses in excess of $966 million. Victims over the age of 60 are targeted by perpetrators because they are believed to have significant financial resources.
If you look at the age demographics of victims in the year 2020, each 10-year age bracket has a significant increase in total loss greater than the previous bracket with the highest total loss by individuals over 60 years of age.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
2018: $2.7 Billion
2019: $3.5 Billion
2020: $4.2 Billion
According to the report, 2020 shows significant gains in cybercrime, with the number one crime being Phishing attempts. And the number to crime being non-payment or non-delivery scams.
Fraudsters took the opportunity to exploit the pandemic to target both businesses and individuals. In 2020, the Internet crime center received over 28,500 complaints related to COVID-19.
In 2020, Nevada ranks number 21 in total victim losses by state with over $44 million in total losses. California leads the charge with over 621 million in total losses.
With many people spending more time online during the throes of the pandemic, cybercriminals took advantage of that additional dependence on technology to conduct an internet crime spree. The result was that 2020 was a record year for cybercrime, with a reported 792,000 complaints filed with total losses of nearly $4.2 billion, up from 467,000 and $3.5 billion in losses in 2019, according to the FBI’s 2020 internet Crime Report.
Specifically, on real estate–related crimes, the FBI reported 13,638 victims in 2020, with $213 million in losses, but the dollar volume of losses for real estate wire fraud was down 3.7 % from 2019.
Prevention is the best medicine for cyber security in real estate.
1. Focus on the vulnerabilities within an outside your organization: The first step is to include a security audit within your processes.
2. Keep an eye on your third parties: look at the organizations you interact with daily. If you exchange information with them, ask them what extra measures they are doing to keep your data safe. If they are not taking the proper precautions, that is a red flag for you.
3. Communicate and educate: Clearly communicate the cyber security risks that exist to everyone involved in the real estate transaction. Develop a security conscious. Develop Plans!
Whether you are showing your own property, or you’re showing your clients property as a property manager or sales agent, you need to take precautions or you can end up being a victim of a serious crime such as rape or robbery.
Probably the first line of defense is realizing that you are not exempt from an attack. Just take a look at cybercrime. Criminals do not care who you think you are. It’s the criminal’s perception of you that’s critical, not your perception of yourself. In addition, if you are not physically or mentally prepared for a physical confrontation, just getting pushed or grabbed can be a shock to your senses and your thought process can instantly seize up on you. Be prepared.
What can you do to protect yourself?
1. Realize that tenants and buyers will do practically anything necessary to get into a property. That means, do not be shy about getting ID’s and verifying contact phone numbers BEFORE showing a property.
2. Beware of your surroundings when approaching a property. Do not take anything for granted just because you’ve been to the property multiple times in the recent past.
3. Do not show properties after dark, and if possible, always have someone you know go with you.
4. Before showing a property, meet in a public place or at your office to get copies of ID’s and/or forward them to someone else.
5. Be sure to be at the property well before your prospects. Unlock all doors prior to their arrival. You do not want to be trapped between a locked door and the prospects.
6. Park in front of the property and not in the driveway. You do not want to give the prospects the opportunity to park behind you and box your car in.
7. Carry pepper spray with you and lock your purse in the truck. Do not wear expensive jewelry or clothing. Be sure and give them any paperwork and your business card while you are still outside before they go inside for viewing. You do not want to be within arm’s reach while inside.
8. Let them enter the property first while you bring up the rear. Always be the person closest to the door. Do not talk about yourself or give clues to your schedule.
9. Try and stay near the front door. There is no need to “show” the property. Let the prospective tenants roam the property. You do not want to follow them down hallways, deep into the property where getting out is more difficult and you possibly can’t be heard.
10. When the prospects are done walking the property, you leave the property first. Wait for them to pull away. Then you go back inside the property locking the front door behind you. Now you can go into each room making sure all windows and areas of entry are secure.
11. Upon leaving, make sure the surrounding area is clear before exiting the property and then secure the last door when you’re outside.
12. Always have your phone ready and be able to contact 911 quickly.
I always recommend some type of physical training. Join a legitimate self-defense martial art, mma, or boxing school. Learn in a controlled, safe environment, what it feels like to get knocked around a little bit so your mind does not freeze up on you in a crisis’s situation. You do not have to be an expert to protect yourself. Learn some basic self-defense moves. Remember, the best way to stay safe is not to get into a situation in the first place.