Scam Letter Alarms Florida REALTORS®
A version of this article was originally posted here: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2017/03/06/scam-letter-alarms-florida-realtors
Florida REALTORS® alerted its 164,000 members to an apparent phishing scam in their state after receiving inquiries from several members about “invoices” they’d received from the “Florida Board of Realtors,” an organization that does not exist.
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REALTORS® have reported receiving a “final notice” bill from the fictitious entity seeking payment of $225 and stating that their real estate licenses are in jeopardy for failure to comply. “It’s a scam,” says Margy Grant, general counsel for Florida REALTORS®. “And it’s not a simple scam. High-tech criminals put a great deal of work and planning into this.”
The scam came to light over the weekend when agents, brokers, and association executives started calling Florida REALTORS®. Many submitted copies of a letter that, on first glance, looks to be legitimate. The “Make check payable to:” address appears to be a post office in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
The notice includes a website, floridaboardofrealtors.org, that also looks credible and professional. “However, most of the links don’t work. Blogs in their ‘archive’ appear to stretch back a few years, for example, but no content comes up when you click. The same is true for many other links,” says Grant.
The state and several local associations have told members to ignore the demands, but are asking brokers and agents to spread the word about the scam. Anyone who has sent a check is advised to cancel it immediately.
Florida REALTORS® is investigating and is in contact with authorities at the state’s attorney general’s office. The National Association of REALTORS® is also looking into the matter. “Be vigilant. Be safe. And tell everyone you know,” adds Grant. “Criminals created a truly impressive fake website, sent a complex fake letter, and successfully alarmed REALTORS® across the state.”
No other states have reported similar scams, but REALTORS® are urged to report any suspicious mailings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Wendy Cole, REALTOR® Magazine