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Urgent Alert: Sophisticated Email Scams Targeting the Real Estate Industry

NAR published this Urgent Alert back in December, but we feel it is so important that we are rerunning the article...

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.

In the next two weeks, real estate professionals will be contending with high transactional volumes during year-end closings. This is a busy and hectic time for real estate professionals, and many millions of dollars will be sent and received via wire before the end of 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 in-box could be a targeted attack from a criminal.

For the full article with information onprevention and damage control, please click here.

 

For more information on this and other cyberscams, as well as further information on cybersecurity 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

New Fully Functional version of ZIPFORM® MOBILE Released!

A new and improved version of zipForm® Mobile was released at the end of May 2016.  The new version is now fully functional, and no longer requires you to lug around a heavy laptop to get access to zipForm®!

With the new version of zipForm® Mobile you can now complete an entire transaction on your iPad, tablet, or phone.  The new version has two key features:

  1. An ability to organize the forms in your transaction in the order you want them to be presented to your client, for example, “Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship” (the Agency form) should always be the first one your client receives for review and signature.
  2. An ability to export all forms (or just the ones you want now) in your transaction as a single PDF for your client’s review and signature.

With the new version of zipForm® Mobile simply prepare a listing agreement, or a purchase offer, with all the additional necessary forms.  Organize the forms in the preferred order, then export them as a single PDF.  Review the documents with your client, then sign with your favorite electronic signature app such as DocuSign® or TouchSign®, or annotation app such as neu.Annotate+®. Once signed by you and your client, email the signed PDF to your client for their records!

On an iPad or iPhone:

  1. Simply go to www.car.com and access zipForm®.  It will know you are on a mobile device.
  2. Or, sign up at www.zipform.com/zfmobile
  3. Download and open the zipForm® Mobile Companion app from the Apple app store
  4. Sign in using your zipForm® Plus account.

For an Android tablet or phone:

  1. Sign up at www.zipform.com/zfmobile
  2. Open your web browser (such as Google Chrome) and go to www.zipformonline.com
  3. Sign in using your zipForm® Plus account.

With zipForm® Mobile, you can work on any transaction directly from your iPad, tablet or phone.  Use zipForm® Mobile to open contracts, view PDFs, and complete paperless signatures from anywhere, at any time.

You can use zipForm® Mobile’s wireless capabilities to print documents directly from the application when you are in range of a printer.

Help is available from the zipLogix Help Desk at (586) 840-0140, which is open 24 hours a day Monday to Friday, and 7am-7pm Pacific Time on weekends and holidays.

zipForm® Mobile is a C.A.R. member benefit for California Realtors®.

Broker Tour Wednesday (Launch Announcement)

sfar_district_9_map

In response to the continued development of high-density housing in District 9 and changing traffic patterns that make touring in the late afternoon difficult, SFAR has made changes to broker’s tour to facilitate easier touring in the areas of District 9 most affected by these trends.

South Beach, South of Market, Yerba Buena, and Mission Bay properties can now be toured on a Wednesday tour time-block created for them from 12pm – 2pm. In order to bring this tour capability to agents as quickly as possible, the transition to a two-day tour will be rolled out in a phased approach beginning immediately.

Tuesday Tour functionality is dependent upon customized MLS software (by Rapattoni) that hasn’t been substantially updated in over a decade, and is now tightly coupled with mobile vendors (THEO) and other agent productivity solutions. Because of this, it will take some time to update the tour functionality and create a rich user experience similar to the one we have now.

While those efforts are already underway, beginning next Wednesday, June 8, we have implemented an interim solution using our new MLS social platform - RealTimeMLS (or RTMLS for short). It's an easy-to-use solution with just enough automation to ensure that agents can get start touring on Wednesday while we complete the final software implementation. Download the RTMLS app for iOS (iPhone and iPad) here.
The Android version is in development and should be released in July.

FAQ

Why only sections of District 9?

Excellent question. Based on feedback from listing and selling agents in District 9, an analysis of recent and future building forecasts, traffic patterns, seasonal events, and tow-away zones, the MLS and Tech committee recommended specific sections of District 9 to be targeted initially. South of Market, South Beach, Yerba Buena, and Mission Bay (sub-districts D, F, G, H) are the areas substantially affected by these trends. 

How do I use the RTMLS tour solution (updated: June 12/26)?

If you have a listing that you want to have open from 12pm to 2pm on Wednesday in District 9 (D, F, G, H) you simply open RTMLS (either on your desktop or using the mobile app) and go into the Broker Tour Wednesday group that all SFAR members have access to. Once in the group, locate the blast for the correctly dated tour:

wednesday-tour-topic

... and then add your listing in the following easily recognizable format as a REBLAST:

Address, Cross-Street
ListPrice, BD, BA, PRK
MLS#
Descriptive text (please keep SHORT)
Optional: include 1 photo

Example REBLAST:

2016-06-13 08 08 46-OneNote

 

Agents who have logged into RTMLS will receive an email on Wednesday morning that shows all of the listings entered for that Wednesday. You can access the list of listings by opening the email or using the app itself. But nothing stops you from accessing the group on Tuesday night to take a look at what's on the tour the next day.

NOTE: If you never want to receive these emails, but still want to use RTMLS (for pre-marketing) there is a control for turning the email notifications for the Broker Tour Wednesday group OFF (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for help with this). You will not receive notifications until you turn it back ON.

Can I schedule this week and next week's Wednesday tour in the same thread?

No, there will only be a single thread for the upcoming Wednesday. By adding your listing with the format described above, you are indicating that you're open from noon to 2pm on that Wednesday only. Every Wednesday around 4:00pm, the FOLLOWING thread will automatically be created and you can then add your listing to that.

Will this differentiate between NEW and REPEAT?

No, the interim solution will not have separated slots for new vs. repeat, and it will also not data check against the listing entered into SFARMLS.

Can I schedule my listing in both the Tuesday 2pm and Wednesday noon blocks?

Yes, during the interim period using the RTMLS solution, you can list your property on both Tuesday and Wednesday. However, given the challenges that have led to low tour turnout in these areas during the Tuesday 2pm time block, we suggest trying out the Wednesday tour time.

What if I have a listing in a building that restricts tour times?

Recognizing that some buildings may need to update policies and procedures was another reason for our phased implementation, if you have a listing in a building with restricted tour times, please take a moment to help SFAR contact these buildings by providing us with an HOA or other contact so that we can provide them with an official update to our tour policy. Please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need assistance getting the buildling to update their tour policy.

When does it start?

The first one is already added to RealTimeMLS with a date of June 8! If you login now it's already created and waiting for you to add your listing blurb if you want to be on tour next Wednesday. If you login to RTMLS at least once, you'll automatically be added to the mailing list and will receive the first email on the morning on Wednesday June 8.

When I post to RTMLS, sometimes I don't immediately see my post, why?

The RESAAS technology used for RTMLS uses a message queueing system in order to make sure all posts appear in the order they were added. Please make sure you allow a couple of minutes for your comment to appear before contacting support at the MLS.

 

SFAR Target of "phishing scams"

Over the past 24 hours, SFAR members have been the target of a series of invalid emails called "phishing scams". These emails are carefully made to look like legitimate messages from the organization being attacked. Often the message will use corporate logos, identifying information (such as spoofed 'sender' email addresses) and recognizable names in order to lure in victims. 

Please note that these messages are NOT coming from SFAR servers, or our offices or vendors. The emails appear to origniate from email servers in South America (Columbia) and contain a link to either a PDF, or Zip file that can infect Windows Computers with a virus or ransomware. 

How can I spot that it's a phishing attack?

When you hover over the link in the email, it will not look like a www.sfrealtors.com URL, and the email contains many errors that should alert you to the fact that is not from us:

 

2016-05-18 18 42 24-FW  San Francisco Association of Realtors - Internet Explorer

 

Has "the server" been hacked?

Valid question, regarding "the server". Unfortunately it's not that simple. The two main databases: our membership system and the actual MLS itself, are hosted by third parties and we have verified that they have not been compromised. Inside the office at SFAR on Grove St, we don't keep the data that would be used for this kind of attack. Nonetheless we are checking our corporate network (Domain Controllers, etc..) anyway to ensure we are not exposed.
 
The problem almost certainly stems from the use of MLS data feeds we provide to vendors and brokers. We carefully vet vendors, but cannot vet each and every broker feed that we provide. These data feeds by necessity contain the identifying information for agents (email addresses, phone numbers, etc...).

We are examing ways of reviewing the security of the feeds, but unfortunately because a list has been extracted already, shutting off the feeds would simply hinder regular commerce. 

What can I do to remove the virus?

At this time, it appears that only Windows computers are vulnerable. If you do not have current Anti-Virus software installed, your best bet is to use a web-scanner (try http://housecall.trendmicro.com) to remove the virus and then install a good AV client (AVG, TrentMicro, etc...) after the virus has been removed. There is little SFAR can do directly, as the attack is not coming from us.

What can I to protect myself in the future?

Make sure, as a general practice, that anytime you receive an invoice (from any company) that does not look identical to prior invoices or comes at a time when you are not expecting to be invoiced, that you hover over any links to see where they are pointed. If the links do not match the name of the company sending you the email, use caution. If there is ever a question, don't hesitate to phone us, or email us, first.

We are very sorry that this attack may have affected you, and are in the process of a full security audit of our systems just in case we were the source of the leaked email addresses (at this time, we have zero reason to believe any of our systems internally were compromised). We will keep all of the members up to date as we investigate and follow up with authorities at https://www.us-cert.gov/report-phishing.

 

Jay Pepper-Martens
Director of MLS & IT for SFAR

 

 

2016 Economic and Housing Market Forecast

Economic Forecast 04-06-16 Oscar Wei Page 01

 

On April 6, 2016 we held our 2016 Economic and Housing Market Forecast event with Oscar Wei, Senior Economist with the California Association of REALTORS®, presenting the information. Click here to get a copy of the slides that were presented.

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