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Mortgage phishing is becoming an increasingly alarming problem

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Homebuyers are continuing to be targeted in an ever growing phishing scam.

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Gone phishing

The FBI has recently issued a new warning to all potential homebuyers of sophisticated phishing attacks deliberately targeting the mortgage industry.

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There is a clear new pattern of crime now: scammers stealing serious money by posing as real estate agents or title companies and providing seemingly secure transactions.

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Reports of these frauds have gone up by 480 percent nationwide, clearly indicating that many Americans are falling victims to foul play.
Targeted parties stand to lose their life savings and in most cases, affected people never retrieve their money again.

So far, these frauds have already added up to millions in lost money.

Often the money is wired overseas.
The cyber criminals target susceptible homebuyers, closely monitoring their purchase decisions, and hone in on victims at crucial moments of vulnerability, for example, right before the final payments, thereby coming across as legitimate.

Usually the initial access is acquired by hacking the email accounts of the brokerage or title companies.

Messages of their clients are intercepted, and then fraudulent emails designed to look authentic are sent to homebuyers about wiring payments to an account belonging to the scammer.
Victims unknowingly send wire transfers to faceless scammers believing they are send it to their trusted brokerage firm.

This particular cybercrime tactic is not new

A year ago, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors warned homebuyers about hackers sending fraud emails claiming “last minute changes” to the wiring instructions, and telling the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account—the closing cost phishing scheme.

What seems new is the rise in the crime rate.

Both NAR and FTC strongly recommends reporting any phishing attack to the FTC.
In order to be safe, FTC suggests never sending financial information via email as it is not secure. Additionally, homebuyers are encouraged to go to websites of financial institutions and brokerage firms directly or go via email instead of through an email-embedded link.

The “https” in the URL, where “s” stands for secure is also a good indication about authentication.

Downloading email attachments or clicking on links is always risky. Before any major wire transfer, making phone contacts with the brokerage or mortgage firm is always the best way to go about it, FTC officials remind homeowners.

Want more to be done

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) has criticized FTC’s warnings as falling short of its intended consequences. They demand more action, visibility and concrete steps from other agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Despite efforts by the title industry and others to educate consumers about the risk, homebuyers continue to be targeted,” Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer, said.

“With the spring homebuying season underway, it’s vital to continue raising awareness about these schemes,” Korsmo added.

#Phishing

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Real Estate Technology

RealEye tracks more than site views, it tracks where people look

(TECHNOLOGY) RealEys is website tracking software that tells you more than just how many people look at your site or where they click. RealEye tells you where they look, too!

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RESO

Visible viewing

One of the beauties of the Internet era is the data we can see on direct consumer behaviors. Heat maps and website analytics can allow us to see how consumers actually act.

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However, unconscious behaviors, the kind that lead to actions taken on a site or app, continue to elude us. RealEye wants to change that.

See what they’re looking at

This software, which can be viewed on ProductHunt, uses “webcam eye-tracking software you are able to follow your user’s eyes and see exactly what they see while looking at your website.”

This way, you can see what people study (and don’t study) before they engage an action on a specific page.

Because this tech is tied to a webcam, you aren’t limited to testing on web pages. According to a comment from creator Adam Cellary, “you can test layouts (png/jpeg) and based on results – correct your designs!”

The company utilizes a vetted pool of testers to review sites with the software, and the data is sent back to customers for their analysis. Customers pay for frequency of access to that test group.

Don’t worry about big brother

Now, some of you may be thinking, “that’s a lot of sensitive data on someone’s face being recorded. What about the privacy issues associated with that?”

Thankfully, the product doesn’t collect recordings.

Instead, it records behavior as data points. The point on the page where users look is logged on an x/y axis, along with time spent looking at that particular coordinate. The app also tracks scroll offset.
Because this data is set up as raw numbers, privacy is protected and the data can be easily migrated into a heat map format.

So, what can you do with that data?

A/B testing is the most obvious application. If you want to see which product page layout leads to a better conversion rate, RealEye provides some of the most accurate data on how consumers perceive each design.

That’s because users can’t “cheat” this kind of testing.

Using the eye mapping data, you can see which page features instantly draw in your users.

Current use

Right now, the most effective testing results are found on desktop. Because mobile screens are so small, it is hard to find meaningful variety in user behavior using those results.

One would imagine this will change down the road.

#RealEye

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Real Estate Technology

Blockchain driven smart contracts are here to shake things up

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Contracts aren’t the most glamorous thing you’ll do, nor are they the easiest. Smart contracts are here to change that.

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contract smart contracts

It seems like today there’s a smart version of everything. Smart homes, smart TVs, smart light bulbs, smart cars, the list goes on. In fact, a new addition to the list are smart contracts.

I know what you’re hoping for — contracts that magically have all the terms and agreements down as if it had read all parties minds and nixed a need for negotiation. Well, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they’re not *that* smart. However, they are “self-executing” and use our favorite pal blockchain to enable them.

Smart contracts aim to help you with money, property, shares or anything that can be traded / exchanged / bought in such a way that reduces the need for a middle man and optimises transparency for all parties involved.

Typically the contracts are pre-written in a computer code and stored (then replicated) with blockchain. The contracts are then executed and run by the computers in the blockchain.

Perhaps the best part of these smart contracts is that they’re completely autonomous meaning that they aren’t controlled by anyone but, rather, they follow the instructions the parties have agreed to (which is the aforementioned computer code).

The benefits of smart contracts that stand out are:

  • Autonomy: No one person owns the contract. No one person has control of it. Also, there is no need to rely on third parties. All of the above removes potential bias or ill-will.
  • Trust: We’ve raved about blockchain for a while now. These contracts being backed by blockchain technology means that your documents are encrypted on a shared ledger, and all parties can have access to them.
  • Redundancy: Another feature of blockchain is that the documents are duplicated many times over on the blockchain, and can’t ever be “lost”.
  • Safety: Have we mentioned the smart contracts use blockchain? (haha, just pullin’ your leg) But really, blockchain means that your documents are uber safe via encryption, making them near-impenetrable by hackers.
  • Speed: A self-executing contract means that they do what you need them to do when they need to do it. No more waiting for everyone to find a pen or get their affairs in order. These contracts save you time.
  • Savings: As we mentioned with autonomy, smart contracts remove a need for a middle man which is one less person you have to pay.
  • Precision: Key word of a smart contract is “smart.” These contracts execute the exact code provided, ensuring zero errors.
  • Transparency: For organizations like governments, they could add another level of transparency to dealings.

Here is a more in-depth look at these contracts and what they stand to offer you and yours.

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Real Estate Technology

No tech skills needed to build lead gen chatbots in under 5 minutes

(TECH NEWS) Create your very own AI chatbots with this awesome new free to start service, no tech knowledge required. Warning: It’s kind of fun and can lead to shenanigans.

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landbot chatbot

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on the rise and innovating quickly. Chatbots featuring AI are becoming increasingly prominent on company websites for more cost-effective, 24/7 customer support and lead generation.

You don’t need to be tech savvy to set up Landbot’s new easy-to-use AI chatbot builder. As long as you have a basic grasp of how to use a computer and the internet, Landbot has you covered.

Landbot offers users a platform to create customized chatbots for customer support, lead generation, and analytics tracking. It launched eight months ago on Product Hunt, earning over 1,700 upvotes and ranked in the Top 200 Products of all time.

Their homepage features a friendly chatbot happy to answer all of your questions. The chatbot also serves as an example of what your very own chatbot could look like if you sign up.

Signing up is as easy as briefly chatting with the bot, providing your name, company or project title, and email address. Lucky you, the sandbox version is not only super user-friendly, but also free to use.

And trust me, the two hours I spent playing around with it are testament to how fun and easy it is to build a chatbot.

No AI, coding, or chatbot knowledge are required to use Landbot 1.0. Simply follow along with the tutorial, learning how to drag, drop, and connect blocks to create conversational interfaces.

Begin with the start message, which is the first thing customers will see. From here, you can create new blocks to build flows. Each block functions as either a question or a message.

Question blocks can have any number of answer types, including pre-set buttons, free text fields, or specific information like asking for contact info.

In the simple message blocks, you can add links, photos, YouTube videos, or custom HTML. Everything is laid out on a grid and connected by dragging an arrow from one block to the next.

Blocks can loop back to previous ones, creating a customizable loop. For bonus fun, you can test out a preview version of your bot to make sure you connected everything correctly.

Once you’ve got your basic conversation flow laid out, customize your bot’s appearance by editing a template or creating a design scheme from scratch. Background, fonts, and color can all be edited to personalize your bot.

Special features include app integration, where you can get Slack notifications when someone using the bot needs help. Automated emails can be sent to qualified leads, ensuring a human on your team follows up with the customer.

Manage leads with access to a table of details, exportable as a .CSV file for record keeping. Analytics are available showing user metrics, flow analytics, and if you incorporated surveys, then collected results.

While Sandbox is free to use, some of the more advanced features are only available if you throw down for a monthly subscription. Landbot offers three pay-to-play options, starting at €20 /month (around $25 USD) for the Starter plan.

Play around with Landbot’s platform and craft yourself a neat new chatbot pal, pal!

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