Cyber-crime is one of the great challenges of our time, and it's something estate and letting agents need to be aware of.
In an unusual step, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) – one of three government-approved property redress schemes – has warned all estate and letting agents to take a cautious approach to fraudulent ‘buyers’ trying to spread computer virus scams.
In a statement released last week, TPO said it had been alerted to a case by a member agent who received emails from a prospective buyer in China. In this case, the individual emailed the branch on a number of occasions “expressing a keen interest to make a full asking price offer on a property”.
The agent, though, was suspicious of the buyer's intentions – in particular their eagerness to act quickly despite having not viewed the property. To ensure the buyer was genuine, the agent asked the individual to send over all their personal details, including identification documents.
However, when the email arrived, the attachments were difficult to open and the agent passed the email to his IT department. They subsequently determined that it contained a number of potentially harmful computer viruses. It was not known for sure what impact the potentially destructive viruses could have had on the agent's IT system if they had not been identified in time, but the consequences could have been devastating.
Luckily, in the above case, the scam was spotted and no harm came to the company. Equally, customer details weren't compromised. Nevertheless, agents are being warned to carry out due diligence on any suspect emails they receive to ensure they aren't affected by computer virus scams.
Gerry Fitzjohn, TPO’s board chairman, said the above scam was a reminder to all agents to be both cautious and vigilant. “The importance of antivirus software is a given, but it is not a guarantee against computer viruses, so the best defence is also an educated user,” he said. “If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. We would urge all agents to circulate this warning amongst staff.”
With the next few weeks set to be the busiest in the lettings calendar, agents across the country will not want to be in any way compromised by scams or viruses. Ensuring your property software is safe and secure – and your staff adequately trained up to spot potential issues – will help to keep your mind at rest.
At Gnomen we provide cloud-based, all-in-one property software, bringing together all the latest innovations to help your business run smoothly. Every service works in complete harmony, allowing you to keep tabs on your office, customers, staff and marketing strategy in one place, at the click of a button.
You'll be able to manage your workload and team effortlessly online, while also keeping your customers happy, engaged and informed. What's more, we provide websites that look beautiful and work beautifully, enabling your agency to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Given that GDPR is set to come into play from May next year, it pays to have the best systems in place – to ensure the data you keep on file is safe, secure and uncompromised. The ability to manage your business from anywhere – whether it be in a coffee shop or on the go as you attend an important viewing or meeting – and in a secure manner will be of vital importance.
For more information about what we do, please get in touch with us on 0208 123 9019 or book a free demo here.