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Real Estate and Criminal Activity: Creating the Perfect Storm

Technology has contributed to incredible innovations that have changed the way we work and live. But just like a coin with two sides, there are always risks associated with any behavioral evolution.

We touch technology every day and it has made us more efficient, more connected, and more available than ever. The younger generation is so connected to devices that they tend to avoid interacting with others over the phone or in person. We are evolving into a culture with new terms such as “data snacking” or “info-snacking”–essentially we are processing so much information that our attention span keeps narrowing to the point that data, information, and communications are processed in seconds and minutes.

In fact, Microsoft concluded years ago on a widely publicized study that the average American’s attention span is eight seconds. I am not entirely sure I agree with that, but I am a firm believer that our attention spans keep getting shorter.

So what types of implications does this growing reliance on technology pose to the real estate industry?

Real estate professionals work hard. As a matter of fact, I tell people that this isn’t a career, it is a lifestyle. We take calls at night, put deals together on Sunday, speak at events on Saturday morning, and excuse ourselves to talk to clients in the middle of family functions.

It never ends–and the criminals are on to us. They know we rely on mobile devices, skim emails, and that we are super busy on Friday. Wire scam emails create a sense of urgency; sometimes they have poor grammar, they tell us they will be tied up with a client and can’t talk on the phone. It all makes sense to us because we are constantly working and running to keep up.

I have heard stories of fraudsters actually calling a title company pretending to be an angry seller looking for a wire. Sound familiar? I have seen them circulate a draft settlement statement that not only looked real—but was a decent representation of the transaction that the fraudster had hacked.

Our technology, short attention span, and obsession for customer service have created the perfect storm for a frightening rise in criminal activity in real estate. We want to respond to emails faster than our competitors, we want to get a wire sent and move on to the next file, and all along we are processing information at unnatural and unsustainable speeds. Criminals know this – and that is why only a real fool would risk robbing a bank. The payout potential of sitting at a computer sorting through data online and in the dark web is the new “stick-up.”

What can we do? Slow down. Take a minute to verify the sender of an email. Look for suspicious behaviors and activity. Fight back by disarming criminals from their weapon of choice—our constant need to move fast. When I present on cybersecurity and real estate fraud, the prop I bring with me is a telephone. The audience laughs at the presenting of a device that makes “phone calls” where you can talk to other humans on the other end. But who gets the last laugh when fraud is perpetrated through these devices?

About Author: Kosta Ligris

Kosta Ligris is an experienced entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of the Ligris Companies, a collection of professional services, real estate, consulting, and tech companies. Ligris has represented and consulted for some of the nation’s largest banks and real estate companies. He also mentors, advises and invests in startups in fintech, proptech, and blockchain that are disrupting the real estate and title insurance verticals.
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