Writing about wire fraud is not something that I enjoy doing, but trust is at the heart of the real estate business. Our team takes responsibility for earning our client's trust and in this digital economy, trust has taken on new dimensions. The way our company collects, shares and, most importantly, protects personal information adheres to state laws.
While many states have laws that pertain to any business in the country that maintains personal information of a resident of that state, currently there are no federal laws regarding data privacy that specifically applies to real estate brokerages.
The various state laws regarding data security have many common elements, but some differences as well.
The Florida security breach notification law is Florida statute 817.5681. The statute states "Any person who conducts business in this state and maintains computerized data in a system that includes personal information shall provide notice of any breach of the security of the system, following a determination of the breach, to any resident of this state whose unencrypted personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by an unauthorized person.”
It goes on to specify the timeline in which notification is to be made and describes the penalties for non-compliance.
Personally in many of the private social media groups that I belong to, I am noticing an increasing number of wire fraud stories. This topic was also covered in the recent Florida Realtors Magazine Law & Ethics section in an article entitled "Wire Fraud on the Rise”.
In our local real estate market where we work with golf home sellers, we see a large number of cash transactions and very often hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, are transferred electronically to and from title companies and closing attorneys on a daily basis.
As real estate professionals communicating with buyer and sellers, mainly via email, it is imperative to beware of cyber criminals hacking email accounts and sending fake wiring instructions.
It's also important to use secure email accounts (not on free WiFi - especially for sensitive data) and to always pick up the phone to verify wiring instructions before sending funds.
Our company has implemented a comprehensive data security and document retention policy.
As Chief Compliance Officer, one of my primary responsibilities is not only to ensure that we comply with all state laws and regulations, but also that we take extra precautions given that there are no federal laws regarding data privacy that specifically apply to real estate brokerages.
To learn more about our data security and document retention policy, feel free to contact me direct at (410) 952-2641 or send a private message.