Sales and purchases of residential and commercial real estate properties have been booming in the online marketplace for years. But that doesn’t mean that deceptive listings, scam artists, and other cyber security issues aren’t still around to ruin your day. If you want to avoid a lot of the headache involved with shopping online for a property that meets your needs, follow these precautionary steps.
1. Don’t Give Out Unnecessary Information
It’s always a good idea to be cautious, and evidence suggests that you should offer a skeptical response to anyone requesting personal information from you online. Make sure you know who you’re working with and find a secure way to pass your information along, if you deem it appropriate.
2. Be Suspicious of Spam Email Lists
As you browse listings and narrow down your choices, it’s important to remember that there are those who are simply interested in obtaining your information for spam advertisement emailing lists. For example, you might find an online ad listing a beautiful home. You’ll contact the seller, considering the low listing price, and they will simply ask you to fill out a form by clicking a link.
This part is tricky. While there are some legitimate sellers who will send you links to fill out information, this is not the norm. The odds are that the individual has bad intentions and doesn’t have a property, either. You’re better off using your real estate agent as a broker between you and the seller so you can make sure you don’t waste time, or worse, find yourself involved in something more malicious.
3. Beware of Malware and Marketing Mischief
There are many ways a cyber-criminal can get information out of you, but most of the time, it happens when your contact sends you a link redirecting you to another page. Often, when you try to leave the page, a pop-up window will appear, prompting you to click “OK.” Clicking this button will automatically execute a script designed to attack your computer. If this ever happens to you, don’t click the “OK” button; instead, forcefully close your browser or simply hold down your power button and restart. It’s better than infecting your computer with malware designed to harvest your information, like addresses, credit card numbers, and account login information.
4. Set Up a New Email and Browse Restrictively
Finally, the best way to protect your identity and information might be to set up a quick secondary email account with the sole purpose of collecting communiques regarding potential properties for sale. Even more, make sure you check for BBB-certified sites by looking toward the bottom of the page at their certification icons. VeriSign security is essential if you’re forced to pay application fees via credit card, but again, brokering as much as possible through your realtor will save you a lot of headache in the long run.