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Realtor struggles with horrific email scam for a whole year

(TECH NEWS) One Realtor struggled with an email scam for a year, damaging her credibility. How can you ensure you don’t fall victim to cyberfraud?

Women typing on laptop representing sites optimized for voice searches.

You better watch out

Many buyers and renters fear real estate scams, and the rise of online real estate listings, though convenient and efficient, has only intensified the risks. But for one Iowa realtor, the scam went both ways, and there was (and is) nothing she could do to stop it.

In February 2016, Sue Dietz, an active and respected realtor in Dubuque, Iowa, began receiving an overwhelming stream of emails and calls about an email bearing her name that offers referrals to other real estate agents. When someone responds to the email, they’re sent a Google Drive link that, when opened, installs malicious viruses that grant access to passwords and other private info.

The email included fake contact info for Dietz, but her real name is there, its credibility forever damaged. Almost 4,000 email recipients have reached out to Dietz, either to confirm the referrals or to inform her of the scam. She’s even received threats from those who believe she’s trying to steal their money.

Scams across the board

Dietz herself has received a fraudulent email from another realtor, so the scam is unfortunately not isolated. And try as we might, “it’s nearly impossible on the front end to prevent a fraudster from using your real name in a scam,” says Jessica Edgerton, associate counsel for the National Association of REALTORS®.” Edgerton recommends going straight to the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, or local authorities if you believe you are the victim of any variety of identity theft.

[clickToTweet tweet=”To prevent being taken in by incoming scams, be wary of emails from other realtors. ” quote=”To prevent being taken in by incoming scams, be more wary of emails from other realtors. “]

A quick internet name search should allow you to compare the emailed contact info with the professional contact info listed online.

what to look out for

Unfortunately, this is only one of many real estate scams on the rise.

Wire fraud scams are particularly worrisome to the real estate community as of late, because they come directly between real estate professionals and their clients.

Hackers access email accounts using captured passwords, and search for messages deal with real estate transactions.

When they identify someone who’s in the process of purchasing a home, they impersonate the agent or attorney and send the victim “new” wiring instructions. If the home buyer sends the money, it’s likely gone for good, and the deal is ruined.

Also on the client side, fake listings of real properties are a major problem. Scammers copy real listing information, sometimes even using the name of the original poster, but price them significantly lower than the market rate to generate high interest.

If you’re asked to drive by the property instead of touring it, or if you’re ever asked wire money, send a deposit, or rent before you’ve signed a lease, run.

How to protect yourself and your clients

Professionals can guard against most fraud by avoiding including sensitive information in emails. Instead, use a more secure document sharing or transaction management app. As with everything, your passwords should be strong and unpredictable, and two-factor authentication can only up the security of your personal info.

Public Wi-Fi is also a needless risk to take. Make sure you verify the identity of everyone involved in a deal before money or sensitive information is shared. By being highly transparent with clients regarding business practices and educating clients on what fraud might look like, scams and their ensuing destruction may be evaded.


Written By

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.


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