Realtors Caution of Final Notice Scam [3-13-17]
Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Mary Shanklin
Published March 9, 2017
Florida’s leading real estate industry group cautioned members against replying to a Final Notice bill from the Florida Board of Realtors.
There is no Florida Board of Realtors.
“It’s a scam,” said Florida Realtors chief executive Bill Martin. “And it’s not a simple scam. High-tech criminals put a great deal of work and planning into this.”
The scam became apparent over the weekend after agents, brokers and association executives notified Florida Realtors. The “Make check payable to:” address appears to be a post office in Deerfield Beach, according to the association.
The form comes with a threat: “Failure to respond with your 2017 Agent Board Listing may lead to closure of board listing. Response required to be included in the Agency listing.”
The letter includes a website, floridaboardofrealtors.org. The website not only appears legitimate, it’s very professional, according to Florida Realtors. Apparently most of the links don’t work. Blogs in their “archive” appear to stretch back a few years, for example, but no content appears.
So far no members of Florida Realtors have reported they responded to the demands, said a spokeswoman for the group.
State investigators have been notified, the Realtors’ legal counsel said.
“For now, members should ignore these demand letters, and we ask brokers and agents to spread this message to everyone working in the Florida real estate industry,” Florida Realtors General Counsel Margy Grant said. “Florida Realtors is still investigating and in contact with Florida authorities. It’s now also in front of the Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Economic Crimes section in Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.”
Scams aimed at real estate agents and brokers have not been widespread but some industry experts caution that agents could become prey to hackers. There are only a few cases in which data thieves have hacked real estate firms, according to the National Association of Realtors. But as large companies and conglomerates become more vigilant, some cyber-security experts have said real estate offices and other small companies could be next in line.