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Tag Archives: realtors

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Choose Your Image Wisely

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When customers visit your website, the first thing they’re drawn to is imagery, not text. On social media, posts get much more attention when they’re accompanied by interesting graphics. This is why it’s so important to choose the right images for your website, social networks, and other mass communications.

  1. Images should be professional. That doesn’t necessarily mean buttoned up – if you have a lifestyle website, for example, you certainly don’t want to use stuffy images. Images should always be high quality, though.
  1. Images should stay in-line with your brand. If you sell writing services and you often post photos of the writing process and your home office, don’t all of a sudden throw in shots of your dog or hanging out at a bar with friends. Social media marketing is social, yes, but it shouldn’t be off message.
  1. Instead of using stock images, hire a photographer to shoot for you. If you’re good at planning, you’ll know in advance what imagery you’ll need and you can send the photographer a shot list.
  1. Build a lifestyle around your brand using images. Let’s say you sell jewelry – you don’t only need shots of the jewelry, but also images of people wearing the jewelry and the lifestyle that your ideal customers lead.
  1. Avoid offensive images. One of the most important customer service tips to learn is to never offend your audience!
  1. Only use legal images. Don’t pull images off of other websites if you don’t have permission. When searching online, make sure to find “Creative Commons” images.

Whatever images you choose, make sure that you’re always appealing to the customer. Your business’ imagery is a public relations matter and your audience should always be your first priority.


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Buyer Beware: Sophisticated Email Scams Targeting the Real Estate Industry:

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Buyers need to be aware with all of the sophisticated email scams!

Criminals are hacking into the email accounts of real estate agents or other persons involved in a real estate transaction and using information gained from the hack to dupe a party into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hackers often send an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction, informing the recipient, often the buyer, that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions.  Following the new instructions, the recipient will wire funds directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever!

This is a busy and hectic time for real estate professionals, and many millions of dollars will be sent and received via wire throughout the year. This is exactly the environment in which online criminals seek to operate.

The National Association of REALTORS® urges its members and state and local REALTOR® associations to be on high alert for email and online fraud.

In May 2015, NAR issued an alert regarding a sophisticated email wire fraud hitting the real estate industry.  Since then, the incidents of online scams targeting practitioners have continued to rise but the advice is the same.

Bottom line: Do not let your guard down!  Start from the assumption that any email in your inbox could be a targeted attack from a criminal.

Prevention

Follow this guidance to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Immediately contact all parties to all of your upcoming transactions and inform them of the possibility of this fraud.  Attorneys, escrow agents, buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and title agents have all been targeted in these scams.  You can also download and distribute NAR’s online fraud prevention handout, accessible here.
  • If possible, do not send sensitive information via email.  If you must use email to send sensitive information, use encrypted email.
  • Immediately prior to wiring any money, the person sending the money must call the intended recipient to verify the wiring instructions.  Only use a verified telephone number to make this call.
  • Do not trust contact information in unverified emails.  The hackers will recreate legitimate-looking signature blocks with their own telephone number.   In addition, fraudsters will include links to fake websites to further convince victims of their legitimacy.
  • Never click on any links in an unverified email.  In addition to leading you to fake websites, these links can contain viruses and other malicious spyware that can make your computer – and your transactions – vulnerable to attack.
  • Never conduct business over unsecured wifi.
  • Trust your instincts.  Tell clients that if an e-mail or a telephone call ever seems suspicious or “off,” that they should refrain from taking any action until the communication has been independently verified as legitimate.
  • Clean out your e-mail account on a regular basis. Your e-mails may establish patterns in your business practice over time that hackers can use against you. In addition, a longstanding backlog of e-mails may contain sensitive information from months or years past. You can always save important e-mails in a secure location on your internal system or hard drive.
  • Change your usernames and passwords on a regular basis, and make sure your employees and licensees do the same.
  • Never use usernames or passwords that are easy to guess. Never, ever use the password “password.”
  • Make sure to implement the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technologies in your business.

Damage Control

If you believe your e-mail or any other account has been hacked, or that you or a client has otherwise been a victim of online fraud, you should take the following steps:

  • If money has been wired via false wiring instructions, immediately call all banks and financial institutions that could possibly put a stop to the wire.
  • Contact your local police.
  • Contact any clients or other parties who may have been exposed during the attack so that they take appropriate action. Remind them not to comply with any requests from an unverified source.
  • Change all usernames and passwords associated with any account that you believe may have been compromised or otherwise made vulnerable by the attack.
  • Report any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations via their Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information can be found by clicking here.
  • Brokers should report any fraudulent activity to their state or local REALTOR® association so that the associations can send out alerts or take other appropriate action, including contacting NAR.

This advice is not all-inclusive, and real estate practitioners should work with Information Technology and cybersecurity professionals to ensure that their e-mail accounts, online systems, and business practices are as secure and up-to-date as possible.

Be aware that these emails are extremely convincing.  Many sophisticated parties have been duped. No one should assume that they are “too savvy” to recognize the fraud.  In addition, no one should assume that they are “too small a target” to be on these criminals’ radars. This fraud is pervasive, convincing, and constantly evolving.

For more information on this and other cyber scams, as well as further information on cyber security best practices, visit these resources:

http://speakingofrealestate.blogs.realtor.org/2015/05/19/alert-wire-fraudsters-targeting-real-estate-transactions/
http://www.realtor.org/law-and-ethics/protecting-your-business-and-your-clients-from-cyberfraud
http://www.realtor.org/articles/request-to-redirect-funds-should-trigger-caution
http://www.realtor.org/topics/data-privacy-and-security
http://www.realtor.org/topics/risk-management
http://www.realtor.org/articles/internet-security-best-practices
http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety/articles

 

It’s a jungle out there so please stay safe!!!  May the force be with us…JB

 


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Focus on the Solution and NOT the Problem!

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focus on the solutionI’ve been drilling this statement into the heads of our agents since we opened our doors back in 2006.  Some have had more issues than others, which means they have heard me sing this tune like a broken record over the years 🙂So often in the world of business we allow our emotions to get the better of us.  When that happens the logical side of the brain shuts down and the irrational responses take over.

In real estate there are so many moving parts spinning in motion behind the scenes.  You could have the buyer’s agent, seller’s agent, buyer, seller, tenant, landlord, title agent, lender, insurance provider, home warranty rep, home inspector, contractors, attorneys, surveyors, appraisers, family relatives etc. and the list goes on.  Any one of these players can stir the pot on a moments notice and send blood pressure readings through the roof.

When this happens we all have a choice to make.  We can meet them at their level OR choose to rise above and redirect our energy towards a peaceful resolution. In every case that I’ve intervened with over the years, the answer was not far away once we removed all obstacles from the equation.  Finding common ground is easier to do with a level head versus one that resembles a rupturing volcano.

Does pressure make you fresher, or do you tend to be sucked into the chaos when the sky appears to be falling?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


May the force be with you!
 JB

By Justin Brown aka JB | Jedi Master Yoda @ RE/MAX Elite


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Make 2016 the Best Year Ever

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We have just entered the 4th Quarter of 2015.  What are you doing today to help you set up your best year yet in 2016?  Here are some great ideas for you to consider.  Once you have some ideas make sure to set up your appointment with our very own business coach, Susan Lewis, to put your 2016 Goals in writing!  She will even set up your accountability calls/meetings!

Let’s Do This!!!!


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