For the remainder of this year, I’ll be covering a three-part series on scams and frauds. This month, it contains short blurbs on email spams, Internet scams, and real estate scams.
There is a saying in Japan, “Consider every human being you meet to be a thief.” In my youth, I used to think that this was such a cynical way of looking at life. Today, as an adult, running our own businesses means coming in contact with people from various backgrounds. Sadly, I have to agree with the adage as a reality of human existence. Culturally, Japan and the United States of America cannot be any more different from each other; yet the exact same human nature can be observed in both countries.
Any tool that humans devise can be used to do good or evil. With the advent of social media, while it has done much good, it has exposed us to the worst of humanity daily as well.
Email spams (rarely scams, however, unless…)
Perhaps many of you are in the same boat that I am when it comes to receiving a large volume of annoying spams coming into your email inbox daily.
Thankfully, a technician at our local Microsoft Store helped set up my Microsoft Outlook to automatically send any and all suspicious emails to the spam folder. All I need to do, at the end of each day, is to glance through them, determine that they are indeed spams, and delete them. Once in a great while, some legitimate emails do end up being there as well. When this happens, I simply whitelist them so that, moving forward, they come into my inbox instead.
Per instructions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, those emails that end up in the spam folder that threaten to cause harm to my PC and/or demand ransom, I put them in a specific folder – to be forwarded to the FBI every so often.
- Never click on any attachments or hyperlinks unless you had specifically requested it moments prior.
- Look at the sender’s entire email address carefully.
- If you do not recognize it or looks odd, blacklist it.
- Even if it looks legitimate, if you have the urge to click on a hyperlink, go to the source (legitimate website) directly instead.
Here is a headline from a Wall Street Journal article, September 29, 2019: “Scammers Find More Opportunities on Internet Marketplaces: Craigslist, eBay and social-media platforms are more lucrative than robocalls for fraudsters, study finds.” It went on to explain further: “The online ads that you willingly click on are more likely to make you a scam victim than the robocalls flooding your phone with urgent messages. A new study of consumer behavior toward fraudulent schemes found that scammers are far more likely to succeed in engaging and stealing money from potential targets by using websites and social media than through the phone calls and emails they have long used.”
- Do not click on any ads.
- If you find something interesting, instead of clicking on the ad, go directly to the actual website at which the product is being sold.
Real estate scams
Through the MLS (multiple listing service), our local association of REALTORS® keeps us, licensees, abreast of the latest scams. Every so often, we are reminded of safety precautions that must be taken in dealing with the public. It’s a jungle out there.
One of the most egregious offenses is wire fraud. Upon learning about it, as a broker, I have since chosen to (1) stay out of any and all wire transfers completely – thus eliminating the possibility of becoming a victim myself and (2) alert all our clients to NOT rely on email notices, or hyperlinks within, to wire funds. Instead, they are asked to contact the title company directly – using known contact information – so that, before the funds are transferred to close a deal, they know the money is going directly to the correct escrow account.
- When someone calls and says, “I’m from the such-and-such title company (the one with whom you’ve been working),” politely reply, “I need to call you back,” hang up, check the title company’s phone number, and call. You’ll be thankful for this simple precaution when the title company representative says, “I did not call you.”
- If you are a real estate licensee, keep abreast of the latest scam updates. You’ll be amazed at how criminal minds work.