October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. For lots of you in the real estate world, that means continuing to protect – and educate – your customers about wire fraud. If you haven’t used it yet, the ALTA-backed Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud is a great resource on the subject.
Bowe Digital recently talked to one of the stakeholders involved in the coalition, Rich Hopen. Rich is both a real estate broker and a wire fraud/mortgage payoff scam victim himself. (To learn more about Rich’s story, click here.)
Even with the increased talk around the subject, Rich said “the awareness around wire fraud is happening very slowly. I can still go out and talk to almost anyone, and they just don’t understand it or know about it.” We hope by sharing our discussion with you that we can keep the discussion going.
Q: What’s one of your biggest concerns when it comes to spreading awareness around wire fraud?
There is still a lack of data. The FBI tracks incidents that are reported to its internet crime website, www.ic3.gov. Yet, it's unlikely the data portrays the (true) scope of the problem. When my mortgage payoff was stolen, I didn't complete the incident form because I wasn't comfortable sharing my financial data. I suspect other victims feel the same way. Also, the FBI’s real estate fraud category is too broad.
The best source of data are title companies. They're at ground zero when the crime occurs. They are often the first parties to discover when money is stolen by cyber criminals. I'd love to see a process whereby title companies anonymously report wire fraud incidents to an association.
We have stories of real estate wire fraud victims, but without solid data, I don't think the problem will be widely reported.
Q: Why do you think awareness around this is just starting to grow?
I've been immersed in this issue since I was victimized early 2018. I'm still shocked how long it's taking for real estate wire fraud to receive the attention and resources it deserves. It's rare for me to find a non-real estate professional who has heard about the problem. More industry resources need to be focused on educating professionals and consumers.
Q: What can title companies do to help?
Title companies should ensure their clients understand the risk of wiring money and how to minimize or eliminate those risks. Warnings on email footers or signed disclosures aren't enough. Title company employees who interact directly with clients need to have a conversation about wire fraud.
Q: What are some main goals for the Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud going forward?
Require real estate professionals to learn more about wire fraud so they can advise their clients how to safely wire money; encourage title companies and brokerages to purchase software that verifies identities of those who send and receive wired funds, and revise wire deposit banking regulations to require banks to match an account number with the account name before depositing funds. And, perhaps most importantly, directly communicate with potential home buyers about the growing threat throughout the home purchasing process.
Richard Hopen is a real estate broker and advisory board member of the Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud. Learn more at www.stopwirefraud.org.
From Guest Blogger & Bowe Digital Intern, Marissa Weiner:
Like ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Instagram is feared because it’s unknown to many. Though the photo sharing app launched nearly a decade ago, many businesses remain reluctant in entering the “new” platform. Additionally, with most Instagrammers using Facebook as well, some business owners see no pressing need to join the Instagram realm if they already have an online presence on Facebook. However, if you want to reach a younger demographic, particularly millennials, creating a free Instagram account is paramount, as 71% of the app’s users are under the age of 35.
Instagram shouldn’t be spooky; it doesn’t have sharp fangs or long claws. It has red eyes, but those can be easily edited and removed. Though creating an Instagram feed followed by many may seem alien to the inexperienced user, the guide below will help your business stand out above the rest.
DO: Utilize Instagram stories to tell your story
No matter what your business is selling, your brand has a story-- consumers want to flip the pages. Did Veronica, your sales representative, just have twins? Thanks to Veronica, you’ve just gained 15 new followers. By sharing the little moments that make your company unique, people want to literally follow along. Along the way, your company builds trust and credibility, associating faces and memories to what was once just a company name and cheesy slogan.
DO: Filter your photos consistently
The word “aesthetic” seems to spew out of the mouth of every Instagram user nowadays. While building an aesthetically pleasing feed worth following may seem impossible if your company sells and manufactures toilet plungers (or title insurance), it isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Consistency is the key to Instagram fame and fortune, so it’s essential that each photo is filtered using the same preset. But b filter photos judiciously , careful not to oversaturate an image.
DO: Show company culture through Instagram’s Live Stories
It’s no coincidence that The Office is Netflix’s most watched show—broadcasting the mundanities of everyday life is appealing. Did Phil just spill his coffee for the second time this week? Kevin spilled his chili in season five episode 26 of The Office, and I’m still laughing. No, I’m not saying you should use Live Stories to bully your colleagues. Instead, use Live Stories to give consumers a real-time behind-the-scenes glimpse at the characters of your company. If your office has its own Kevin-esque character, consider yourself (and your Instagram) lucky.
DON’T: Use stock photos
Stock photos have a place in your marketing plan, but it’s not on Instagram. The photos may be better utilized on a platform like Facebook, in which an older generation is targeted. Millennials, however, will take one look at the photo of your “receptionist” and know there’s no way “Miguel” is smiling that wide on a Monday morning. Rather than finding artificial photos on Shutterstock or Pixabay, take real, in-office photos. Maybe you spend one Friday evening having a photoshoot, allowing a database of photos to be locked and loaded for future use.
Marissa Weiner is a senior Butler University student pursuing degrees in Communications and Media and English Creative Writing. She interned with Bowe Digital during the summer of 2019.
Think about the bloggers and columnists you read – or the Twitter and Instagram influencers you consider must-follows. Why do you keep tabs on these people and gobble up every word they say, whether you agree with their take or not? Because they’re engaging and entertaining.
Your work blog, marketing email and social media presence can be that same kind of brand amplifier for you and your company as a viral post is for influencers. It all comes down to creating the right content.
But how do you start doing that? My first tip might sound simple, but it truly is important: Don’t overthink it. Sure, you want to put an informative message out there, and that’s great, but you also need to make sure you’re generating stuff that is engaging and fun too.
That being said, starting a blog or a new campaign takes dedication. if you are planning a launch of either soon, make sure you have a plan to get started and are committed to the cause. It’s going to take some time to find your niche, but it’s well worth it. Casey addressed the importance of planning for social media last month, and it applies here too.
I wish I could sit here and tell you there’s a magic formula to finding your voice and building a following, but there’s not. Experiment and see what works for you as the creator – and for your unique audience. Remember just because you’re keeping it professional doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Your readers and followers want to be entertained as you teach them something new. After all, they are coming to YOU for this content. Don’t be afraid to put your unique spin on things.
While all of us at Bowe Digital would love to see you become thought leaders in your area of expertise, also don’t be afraid to branch out into related areas. Show your audience you’re a community expert -- not just a real estate one – and write about your favorite restaurants, activities, landmarks or charitable causes.
One final tip: Don’t forget to evaluate it from a receiver’s (reader, viewer) perspective. Ask yourself if someone else created this content would you take time to engage with it. If the answer is no, re-work it until it is or scrap the idea. Let yourself be a gatekeeper to your own content and don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker or friend for second opinion.