Protect your real estate correspondence – before it’s too late!

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

With security an ever-growing concern for businesses across the globe, worldwide spend on internet security products and services is expected to reach $124 billion in 2019 (Gartner, 2018).

A significant chunk of that total is spent on network and infrastructure and, increasingly, on identity authentication. Yet, the security of invoicing—the tool with which businesses generate revenue—and related correspondence is almost completely overlooked. That has to change.

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Who’s a target for fraud? You are!

If you’re involved in real estate transactions, whether at an SME or enterprise business, you can realistically assume that you are a target for fraud.

According to this recent report, a single gang netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from targeting CFOs with bogus requests for money transfers. The “phishing” technique employed involved sending legitimate-looking emails that linked to a copy of a genuine website and encouraged the targets to input bank details. Although a relatively unsophisticated play, the FBI estimates that similar scams cost businesses $12 billion(!) between October 2013 and May 2018.

That’s just a drop in the ocean.

The University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies puts the global annual cost of fraud at over £3 trillion, with £9 billion estimated to come from invoice fraud in the UK alone.

Your customers are targets too

Nobody wants to be responsible for paying considerable amounts to the wrong person—particularly if that person has swindled you. So, taking steps to protect yourself is reasonable and encouraged and we’ll look at some things you can do to protect yourself in a moment.

There’s also someone else important that you should take steps to protect: the person who pays you.

This is an area that—specifically in terms of payment-related correspondence with customers and clients—is consistently neglected.

Even if you hold the [unacceptable] position that “if my customer is careless enough to pay the wrong person, it’s their own fault and they’ll still owe me money anyway”, consider the following.

  1. If your customer or client has paid the wrong person a significant sum of money, they may not have any money left to pay you.
  2. The resources you use to investigate where the money has gone and to repair the relationship with your client would be better spent elsewhere.
  3. If your systems have been breached—or if your customers have simply lost confidence in your process—the reputational damage to your brand could prove far costlier.

Despite these consequences—and despite knowing that people in real estate transactions are susceptible to hacking and phishing—real estate companies continue to simply email sensitive data to tenant and clients. How can a recipient know that the information they receive from you is legitimate? Too often they don’t – and with dire consequences.

So what can we do about it?

The best way to prevent fraud is to remove the opportunity for fraud. (It sounds so simple!)

Simple first steps

The easiest first step to take is to increase awareness. Inform your employees and customers/clients of the dangers of fraud and how it is often carried out. Remind them also about your process of paying invoices, where they can check details and the importance of caution before making any payments (particularly if they’ve received a request to change bank details).

You can even adopt Financial Fraud Action‘s phrase to “check twice or pay the price” – a simplistic but useful sentiment. Each step you add to your process essentially adds another layer of protection. The problem with relying on memory or maxim (such as “check twice”), however, is that you can easily forget to apply it.

The better way

A better way to protect your customers and clients is to hard-code your layers of protection into your process.

That means looking towards software solutions to help. Fortunately, we know a tool with some powerful new features that will help: eConnect – an advanced email & communication tool for real estate systems.

What is eConnect?

eConnect is an advanced communication tool for real estate businesses. It integrates with ERPs such as MRI Software, Yardi or SAP to provide additional features that enhance the overall correspondence process.

Watch this video for a demonstration of eConnect‘s full range of features, such as the ability to automate cumbersome tasks or to broadcast instant messages.

If you’re interested in eConnect‘s options to secure your correspondence—and you should be—then read on!

How can eConnect protect my business?

eConnect helps you to remove the opportunity for fraud with a range of features and security options that:

  • speed up your correspondence process
  • make sure your correspondence reaches the intended destination securely
  • provide your customers/clients with assurance that correspondence is from you.

Some of the ways it does this are described below.

1. Email via your own gateway

Did you know that the bulk email you transmit via your ERP is sent via a single gateway shared by all your ERP provider’s customers? To give your recipient the impression an email is sent from your domain, the ERP will mask the email with your address. There are two problems with this approach.

First, firewalls and other security measures implemented by IT departments tend to class masked email as dangerous spam. This means that your email and attachments will often get filtered into junk folders or blocked from your recipients’ inboxes entirely.

Second, when communication is not sent from your email server, you will have no way of knowing if and when it has landed (or if it has been rejected). These issues leave a window of opportunity for people with nefarious intentions to interrupt the process.

eConnect will allow you to keep that window firmly shut by linking your ERP to your email server and enabling you to transmit ERP-generated correspondence via your own gateway. This helps your communication navigate spam filters and makes it possible to track every communication, with eConnect’s comprehensive reports giving you an oversight of every single transmission.

2. Advanced document security

As well as making sure your communication arrives at its destination, eConnect offers several options to protect the attachments you send with it. This includes the option to encrypt each document with a choice of password protection at document or user-level, along with the ability to send unique passwords to each user by SMS via eConnect’s Broadcast functionality.

Uniquely, eConnect offers the option to add advanced digital signatures to all your correspondence.

Using certificate-based digital ID to authenticate user identity, eConnect’s integrated digital signing service adds a tamper-evident seal to each document and embeds time-stamps for every activity. A visible notification panel within each document provides recipients with assurance and a clear sign that the correspondence is from a trusted source (i.e. you!).

eConnect's advanced digital signature example (see blue panel)

Example of a PDF document protected by eConnect’s integrated GlobalSign digital signature service.

The service, provided by GlobalSign, is pre-approved by Adobe and Microsoft, so it’s easy to get up and running.

3. Secure document portal

If you’re still worried that your correspondence might not reach its destination—or just want to provide your tenants, clients and partners with round-the-clock access to key information—eConnect’s secure web portal is another option.

The portal enables you to provide 24/7 access to all historical correspondence and documents, along with a range of self-service features that can help you speed up the correspondence process. You can even integrate with your choice of file-server (such as SharePoint), automate uploads and choose a level of login security that you’re comfortable with.

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If you’re interested in protecting your customers, partners and organisation from fraud, it’s about time you hard-coded protection into your digital correspondence process. If you’d like a tool that will optimise your entire correspondence process at the same time, eConnect is the perfect fit.

Richard Duddy

Richard is a Chartered Marketer who is helping TopUp to continue its year-on-year growth. He recommends that you "watch this space for your next favourite real estate product is coming soon!"
Richard Duddy

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