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How to easily defend yourself from common cybercrimes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Cybercrimes can cause some serious problems for you and your clients, but there are easy quick ways to insure the safety of any information

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Life is full of uncomfortable conversations. From telling your Tinder date it’s just not working out, to calling your parents to say you can’t come home for the holidays, there are plenty of discussions to dread. One unfortunate conversation that’s on the rise, however, involves cybercrimes and real estate transactions. Nobody wants to have to tell a client that their private information – or even payments – have been stolen.

Luckily, there are ways to defend against cybercrimes.

First, however, it’s worth knowing what you’re up against. According to Robert Siciliano, CEO of Safr.Me, there has been a dramatic increase in cybercrimes over the last two years alone. Criminals are growing more organized and skilled, so it’s crucial to ensure your data is secure.

The good news is, securing your information can be easier (and cheaper!) than you expect.

Many crimes have been successfully committed simply because users haven’t taken cybersecurity seriously. Weak passwords, for instance, can make a data breach much more likely. These are passwords like “password” or “abcde.” Not only does Siciliano recommend a stronger password, but also implementing two-step verification, which will require more information to log in.

At the National Association for Realtors Conference and Expo, Siciliano explained, “Hackers say once they own your password, they own the email. Because they can pose as you. This can lead to people stealing your information, stealing your clients’ information and even convincing clients to wire money to their account.”

That’s no bueno for business.

It’s also worth discussing cybersecurity with clients early on. Warn them, for instance, about what to do if they get an email from “you” about wiring money to an account you all haven’t discussed. You might even want to bring up passwords – we can all benefit from stronger passcodes.

Just like talking to your kid about keeping the front door closed is easier than breaking the news that their dog ran out the open door and got hit by a car, having slightly uncomfortable conversations with clients early can save you having the really uncomfortable conversation about accidentally leaking their banking information.

Cybercrimes might be on the rise, but even a few small tweaks can help keep you and your clients safe from digital disaster.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Real Estate Technology

1 in 3 houses are already smart homes – do you know your obligations when marketing one?

Realtors may market a home as smart homes, so do you know what qualifies and what disclosures are required?

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Did you know that a third of all homes in America currently meet the requirement to be called a “smart home,” and that is expected to rise to 54% in less than 24 months? What are you doing to properly market your listings accordingly? How are you studying the trend to make sure people that need accessibility features of smart homes are accommodated?

This was the very topic at hand at a lively panel at the 2021 REALTORS® Conference & Expo led by Craig Grant, CEO of The Real Estate Technology Institute & RETI.us and Brandon Doyle, a Maple Grove, Minnesota Realtor and host of “Home Tech Decisions” on YouTube. The overarching theme of the discussion was the benefits of smart homes to the real estate business.

Grant notes that it doesn’t take large investments to make a house a smart home. “Just having a few devices in specific categories, such as certain lighting, security cameras, or appliances, qualifies a home to be a smart home,” he notes.

To call a home “smart,” it must have a reliable internet connection and smart items in at least three categories, and may then be marketed as such.

“These homes were once only for the ultra rich, but we’ve gone from only super-wealthy people like Bill Gates having these products to every home now having at least one or two smart items,” said Doyle, who jokes that companies like Amazon basically give away these devices as a “gateway drug” to other connected devices.

The two presented data revealing that 26% of Baby Boomers currently have smart home technologies in their homes, 49% of Generation Xers, and 77% of Millennials.

This data implies that rapid increase you should expect in the market, as consumers increasingly own smart home features, but will also expect them as part of a listing.

The panelists note that it is not just novelty that consumers seek, but ease of use and accessibility, thus the popularity of products like lighting systems, carbon monoxide detectors, and digital thermostats.

“Smart home technology can now be used by seniors and those with disabilities to assist them in day-to-day activities,” noted Grant. He adds that real estate professionals play a role in being able to educate senior buyers and their families of how smart homes can aide their lives. He illustrates with the examples of smart home devices that detect falls, voice-activated features like curtains, and aides that help the visually impaired and hearing impaired.

The panelists acknowledged the risks associated with smart homes (like the vulnerability of not changing passswords from the default or when moving away, and the listening features of smart devices), but ultimately conclude that settings can often disable these features, and that the rewards outweigh the risk.

They also asserted that Realtors have an obligation to know all rules and requirements regarding selling a smart home, such as explaining what devices are included in the close of a property, and disclosing any hazards, as well as adhering to all privacy laws.

Although not woven into the panel, the National Association of Realtors (host of the annual conference) does offer an inexpensive, 12 credit hour certification course, “Smart Home Certification” which could be the shorcut to understanding your obligations when selling or marketing a smart home.

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Real Estate Technology

AI can now spot fake landlords and rental scams

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) False rental listings have risen so Scamlord.ai is helping renters by offering education and guidance on how to avoid becoming a target of rental fraud.

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Even with a global pandemic going on, some US renters still need to find a new place to live. The world keeps spinning and people are having to find ways to adapt. Unfortunately, as more people are turning to fully online resources to find their next property, it can be harder for some to tell fact from fiction. That is where Scamlord.ai steps in.

Online scammers are in full effect creating fake landlords and rental listings to lure people into fraudulent deals. Scamlord.ai is a new, AI-driven tool that helps people stay away from potential rental fraud.

Scamlord.ai was created by Onerent, a small-residential rental manager on the West Coast. This new tool is designed to help renters avoid losing money and personal information to rental scams. According to the Scamlord.ai website, the tool was created by gathering thousands of fraudulent rental listings over the past several years and feeding them into a machine learning model. When renters input listing information, the AI uses that to track patterns in the contact information which allows it to tell if the listing is actually a scam.

Rental fraud has become a huge problem in the U.S. market with over 5 million U.S. renters reporting losing money to rental scams. Scamlord.ai creators hope that their tool can help more renters avoid this type of heartbreak.

We want to educate renters of the dangers of rental scams and save the money, risk, and fear of rental fraud. Any details we verify as scam will help us build a database of scammers,” said Rico Mok, co-founder of Onerent.

Scamlord.ai has a simple interface. All users need to do is input the listing phone number, email address, owner name, URL, and property address of a potential rental property and the AI will be able to tell if this is a legitimate listing.

The website also includes some helpful information for renters on how to spot a potential rental scam and what to do if they come across a fraudulent listing. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Rental listings being priced at a huge discount compared to similar homes in the area
  • Communicating with strange and sporadic emails
  • Requesting money upfront via wire transfer or prepaid debit card

Scamlord.ai is helping renters navigate a frequently changing world by offering education and guidance on how to avoid becoming a target of rental fraud.

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Real Estate Technology

This is the BEST professional profile picture creator on the planet

(TECH NEWS) This new profile picture tool helps amp up your social media presence with beautiful and free tools to enhance any photo.

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Profile Picture Maker is a service that allows you to quickly create beautiful profile pictures.

With every pun intended, your profile picture is the face of your online presence. While there are different “rules” for different platforms (e.g. it’s socially acceptable to have a picture of you and your significant other as your Facebook profile pic, whereas that wouldn’t fly on LinkedIn).

Many avid social media users are working in an effort to brand themselves (blue check, please!) So, it’s important to put your best foot – or in this case, face – forward.

Profile Pic Maker is here to help you brand. And, before you judge the name as something that sounds akin to the days of MySpace, it’s simplicity (in name and execution) is actually quite cool.

It lets you upload any photo of you (or your pet) and creates profile pics that are useful across Facebook, Google, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and so on. You can then start editing the photo to your liking.

The tool boasts a photo background remover, creative photo filters, and the likelihood of getting more likes on your photo. With the photo background remover, you can remove the background from your photo completely automatically and precisely.

With creative photo filters, apply creative studio-grade filters to create aesthetically pleasing profile pics. And with all of this, your photos will gain more interest.

Here’s how it works: You upload a photo, the background is automatically removed, then you review dozens of professionally generated profile pics (including backgrounds with solid colors and gradients). Best of all, it’s free.

I tried it – it took all of 15 seconds and I was enamored with the outcome. The options were astoundingly cool and I’ll likely be spending the rest of my day deciding what picture to use. It does have a few kinks (my face was distorted on a few options) but there’s plenty of perfect ones to pick from.

Profile Pic Maker test images by author Taylor Leddin

According to PFP’s website, “Profiles with a profile photo receive 14 times more views than those without a profile photo. Moreover, with a professional profile photo you are 36 times more likely to receive a message.”

I’ve yet to upload these to my personal pages, but I can attest to the above statement and the overall concept being useful. For my dog’s Instagram page (yes, I’m one of those people), I cropped just his face from a photo and put it against a colorful background to make it look more “professional” and the page has gotten a lot more interaction since then.

What do you think? Do fun and colorful backgrounds draw your eye more than a regular old photo?

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