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At yesterday’s Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting, Carol Burnett, vice president and managing broker of Alain Pinel Realtors Saratoga, warned members about hackers who have been breaking into email accounts of buyers and real estate agents in order to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. She said the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has urged all REALTORS®, their clients and other real estate professionals to be on high alert for these email and money wiring scams, also known as mortgage phishing scams.

Scammers are hacking into email accounts and using information about a real estate transaction to trick people, often home buyers, into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hacker sends a bogus email, which appears to be legitimate, informing the buyer that there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions. The email instructs the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account, which is actually the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, they could lose all that money in a matter of minutes.

Burnett said a similar scam happened to an agent in their office and their client, a first-time home buyer. The buyer received a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of the title company who told the buyer to wire the closings costs of $500,000 to a different account. When the scam was discovered, all parties were immediately contacted, including the FBI. The buyer was able to recover most of the money, but not all. Not all buyers are as lucky, said Burnett.

Online scams targeting REALTORS® and their clients are on the rise. Burnett has learned other agents and clients in the Bay Area have been victims of these mortgage phishing scams. One victim lost close to a million dollars.

“This is really an important, serious matter. You have got to be careful,” Burnett told members.

Burnett shared the following tips to avoid being a victim of these mortgage phishing scams for REALTORS® and their clients.
• Never send any wiring information in an email.
• Always introduce the title company representative to your client.
• Put the phone number and other contact information of another party directly into your phone. Do not take it off an email that has been sent to you.
• Do not wire money until you get the okay from the title company.
• If you are instructed to wire money to a bank outside California, don’t. All banks have offices in the state.

See more Prevention and Damage Control Tips from NAR.

 

 

Brokers share a light moment during their discussion. Left to right are Tom Tognoli, Intero Real Estate Services; Ryan Iwanaga, Sereno Group; Carol Burnett, Alain Pinel Realtors; and Don Tornincasa, Coldwell Banker.

Brokers share a light moment during their discussion. Left to right are Tom Tognoli, Intero Real Estate Services; Ryan Iwanaga, Sereno Group; Carol Burnett, Alain Pinel Realtors; and Don Tornincasa, Coldwell Banker.


Brokers/managers from SILVAR’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District educated members on the do’s and don’ts of the business at Wednesday’s tour meeting. The panel included Don Tornincasa, Coldwell Banker; Carol Burnett, Alain Pinel Realtors; Tom Tognoli, Intero Real Estate Services; and Ryan Iwanaga, Sereno Group. District Chair Karen Trolan served as moderator.

The brokers said all top agents are educated about the marketplace, they go on tour, keep in constant touch with their database, work long hours, and make it a point to meet potential clients every day, even during the holidays. They encouraged agents to pick up the phone, touch base with clients, send holiday cards.

“We’re in a relationship business. Take advantage of the holidays. It’s an opportunity to connect with people and thank your clients,” said Burnett.

The panel said
Iwanaga observed that the most successful agents are those who work hard in the first quarter of the year, which can define the whole year. He encouraged agents to start contacting potential clients and cultivate relationships now.

“Don’t wait for January 1 to do it,” said Iwanaga.

More than in the past, the real estate business is changing, and changing fast. There are now micro-markets that are also changing. Agents need to be open-minded, flexible, and embrace new things. Read, dedicate yourselves to improving your skills and look forward, said Tornincasa.

“Keep your eyes out in front of you,” added Tognoli.

Passing the exam is not enough. Agents need to invest in themselves, take seminars and learn.

“Preparation means opportunity,” said Tornincasa.

On technology, the brokers recommended embracing social media, but while engaging in social media is good, most important is building a good website because that is where people eventually come to find out more about the agent.

“You need to make sure your website says something to the world,” said Burnett.

The brokers set standards in their offices, discuss the Code of Ethics at office meetings, and some provide training, but in the end, it is up to the agent.

“You can’t teach ethics and honesty,” said Tognoli. Agents needs to care about their image, their behavior and their reputation.

December 2021
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