Identity Theft on the Rise in Real Estate

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, says Congresswoman Melissa Bean. The FTC receives over 250,000 reports of identity theft every year and USA Today reported that in 2007 an estimated 260 million records were stolen – that amounts to 8 records stolen every second of every day.

RealtorĀ® Associations, MLS Boards, Brokers and Agents are going to have to work together to halt this looming threat in the real estate industry that is the central focal point of trend #6 in my 2008 TRENDS Report.

In 2007 the real estate industry experienced a significant number of breaches and violations involving identity theft and data security such as:

  • A hacker took advantage of a programming error on a MLS public website and took over the entire network – both at the data center and MLS office – taking down the public site and gaining access to membership systems, the MLS store – everything.
  • A man walks into an association, past the busy receptionist and plugs his laptop into a network jack – minutes later he had taken the membership database and all the software he needed to decrypt and use it for malevolent purposes.
  • An employee of a subsidiary of Fidelity National Information Services, Inc. stole 2.3 million consumer records with bank account and credit card information, which he later sold to a data broker.

This is not good news for an industry already tarnished in the media as being one comprised of the least trusted professionals. So what are you doing Mr. RealtorĀ® to prevent this from happening to you?

The 2008 Swanepoel TRENDS Report ( recommends a seven point plan for agents and brokers to take to minimize possible lawsuits and even jail time. You have been warned.