Tag Archives: help for property managers

Massive Cyber Attack – Are Property Management Companies at Risk?

Property Management Company Post Cyber AttackI told you so. I’ve been warning about this for a good while now, and this is only the beginning.  In particular, if you are using web-based property management software, you should think about what you are doing. You are putting your own security, your tenants, and your property owners at risk, and probably paying a hefty monthly sum to do it.

I’m talking about the huge cyber attack that came in three waves on Friday.  If you were not directly affected, it was probably (1) because the hackers didn’t bother with smaller websites or (2) because it wasn’t your turn yet.  Here are some of the ones it did affect:

The New York Times
The Financial Times

Ladies and gentlemen, these sites are no pushover sites for hackers (or are they?). Supposedly these sites are some of the best secured sites in the world, and hackers managed to get to them all at once. If these sites are vulnerable, how secure do you think your property management software website is? Most of them weren’t even around 5 years ago, and I would venture that none of them have anywhere ‘close’ to the level of cyber security protection of the sites that got invaded.

In a recent NBCNews.com post I saw the comment for consumers to “think carefully about what and when they connect devices to a cloud or even to the internet in general.” In a previous blog, I speculated on a scenario specifically for property managers called “A Day in the Life of a Property Manager Post Cyber Attack”. It is almost scary how real that seems now.

My experience is in property management and I admit it is in my financial interest for people to purchase desktop software. But the reason we have continued to offer on-premise rental property software is because there is a large market of landlords and managers that don’t want to risk their business and their client base. Plus, the monthly fees for web-based software companies are never ending, and will wind up costing a fortune in the long run.

This year, on the Buildium blog (a web-based competitor) it was stated, “Is your company at risk? Basically: yes. Every landlord, property manager, or real estate professional has access to (and stores) sensitive, confidential, personally-identifiable information on tenants and employees.”

And who is vulnerable? Basically everyone, but consider this information from the same blog “Businesses with fewer than 250 employees account for somewhere between 20-30% of all cyber attacks.”

And how easy it to recover from an attack? Read on,60 percent of small businesses close their doors within months of a successful cyber attack.”

I LOVE technology so don’t get me wrong! We always are looking for new ways to innovate and provide our customers with the best experience possible. But that can be done without storing your valuable data on a remote server that can be attacked at any time. And when that happens, you might suddenly find yourself in an office with no access to your tenants, your owners, your vendors, your accounting, and your customers. And I ask, is that worth the risk?

How to Avoid Scammers

Angry Property ManagerMost warnings and media stories about scams on rental listing sites such as Craigslist focus on helping renters avoid scams, but landlords and property managers are often targeted as well. Here are some of the most common ways in which property managers and landlords find themselves getting scammed — and how they can prevent it. Learning how to avoid scammers is critical to your success.

Three Types of Scams:

Smoke-and-Mirrors Scams

Scammers steal pictures and property listing descriptions from authentic rental listings, and post them elsewhere online to lure renters. The alternative postings include suspiciously low pricing and contain fake email addresses or 800-numbers, which the scammer uses to draw renters in. For the landlord, their legitimate listing is passed over by tenants clicking on the lower price option, and can create suspicions that the legitimate listing is a scam as well.<

Lawsuit Scams

These scams involve real tenants actually signing a lease agreement and moving in – only to invent an excuse for a lawsuit. This could be failure to provide lead paint documentation or really anything that sounds scary and serious. Even if the tenants eventually lose the lawsuit, they can still often live for free while the landlord deals with the suit. Court may put a stay on any eviction proceedings until the lawsuit is decided.

False Check Refunds

Impostors often will pose as renters who agree to pay a security deposit and rent without viewing the property. Then the impostors send fraudulent cashier’s checks in excess of the stated amounts and request that landlords return the overages. After sending a “partial refund,” landlords learn the up-front payments were counterfeit.

How to avoid scammers – here are some ways in which landlords and property managers can guard against these scams:

Limit Information

Publish limited information on the internet regarding yourself and your properties. Post the intersection instead of the full street address. Serious prospects will call, giving you the opportunity to conduct a phone screening prior to divulging sensitive information.

Use An Alternate Phone Number

Never use your cell or home phone in your rental ads. Consider free options such as Google Voice to receive calls on your cell phone without giving away your true phone number.

Conduct A Background Check via Telephone

Always conduct a preliminary background check via telephone prior to showing the property. Scammers will be uncomfortable answering many questions. When doing a more complete screening after showing the property to an interested tenant, be sure to verify their employment, income, credit history, criminal background, and court history. If they have ever sued a landlord, keep searching.

Watermark Your Photos

Watermarking your pictures is one way to prevent picture theft. There are a number of watermark software programs and some free online versions. Do some research to choose the appropriate one for you.

Now that you know some ways to avoid getting scammed, also check out our post on protecting your computer from a cyber attack: http://tfblog.tenantfile.com/2015/10/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-property-manager-post-cyber-attack/