San Francisco Real Estate: Escrow Out Loud

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#40: (Online) Safety First

When a wealthy Nigerian man emails us asking for a million dollar loan, we can safely assume we are being scammed. But not all scams are as easy to spot. This week on Escrow Out Loud, our San Francisco Real Estate podcast, we talk about online scams and fraud.


[02:02] Bank robbing is risky and often not very lucrative, cybercrime on the other hand can not only be performed remotely but it typically also has a much larger payoff. With the huge figures attached to San Francisco real estate deals and money being wired from buyers to title companies to sellers, is it any wonder it has become an area of interest for sophisticated online scammers. Their goal is often to hack into the email accounts involved in the transaction. That’s a problem. Why? Because we can’t always tell if our e-mail (or anyone else's who’s involved) has been hacked!


[04:34] One way they can then get a hold of our money is by sending fake wiring instructions. Title companies, banks and other companies attacked have beefed up their security leaving brokerages and consumers as the weak point of entry. While there are benefits in terms of speed and convenience in dealing on-line, it comes with a drawback in terms of security.


[07:39] E-mail is a very insecure platform that shouldn’t be used for personal documents. If you are involved in real estate transactions, we recommend strengthening security on the account you will be using. This includes using two factor authentication on the said email account as well as using a different password for your email than you use for anything else. Because we are entrusted with a lot of sensitive information we take security very seriously. What are some precautions we take?


[11:50] What if you don’t want to use email but still want to be digital? There are some other options available. Slack, iMessage, WhatsApp, Skype are all widely available and encrypted end-to-end. Another thing you can do is make sure to call the escrow company to confirm wire instructions before sending or receiving a wire. Just make sure you don’t use the phone number given in the email instructions! Get it from a reliable source. We share some other things to look out for and Britton shares her personal experiences with wire transfer when she was purchasing her ‘real home’. (You can hear more about Britton’s real home in Episode 24: A Real Home)


[17:07] While you can wire safely if you take all the precautions, what if you don’t want to wire at all? Are there other options? Yep. You can use a cashier’s check. Now that we have scared everybody silly, we can wrap up today’s episode! If anybody has more questions don’t hesitate to e-mail us or download our pdf for more information. Stay safe everybody!


Thank you for joining us for this week’s episode. We hope you enjoyed tuning in and join us again next week for more San Francisco real estate stories!

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