Future of Real Estate (FORE) Summit speaker and international cybersecurity advisor, Frank Abagnale, believes technology not only prevents cybercrime, it also accelerates it. As the real estate industry shifts rapidly toward more digital processes, Abagnale believes it’s critical for businesses to start thinking like old-fashioned con artists who spot and exploit what technology can not prevent: human error.
More than 50 years ago, Abagnale launched one of the most notorious con artist careers in history. Before the age of 21, he had fraudulently collected more than $2.5 million and had successfully assumed more than 8 different identities including a physician, attorney, and Pan American pilot. His real-life experiences inspired his book and Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, Catch Me If You Can.
Today, Abagnale works with the FBI and advises hundreds of financial institutions, corporations, and government agencies around the world to help them prevent cybercrime. While the mechanics of fraud have shifted over the past 50 years, Abagnale says the fundamentals are largely the same.
The technology + human error equation
“What I did 50 years ago is about 4,000 times easier today,” Abagnale says.
Before the Internet, personally identifying information was much harder to come by. Today, technology has made massive amounts of personal data available with the click of a button. In 2018, cybercriminals snatched more than $1.5 trillion. To put that figure into context, if cybercrime were a country, it would rank 13th in terms of GDP.
While cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their hacking approaches, the fastest-growing tactic is also the lowest hanging fruit — social engineering — an approach used by fraudsters (including Abagnale in his past life) for decades. In a socially engineered event, a criminal uses the art of manipulation coupled with human psychology principles to con people into doling out personal information such as passwords or even duping them into sending money directly to a fraudulent account.
A recent study by the Better Business Bureau, reports that from January to May 2019, business email compromise (BEC) scams (a form of social engineering) resulted in more than $750 million lost in the U.S. alone. In the real estate industry, the threat of BEC is especially pronounced. According to FBI data, the number of real estate BEC reports increased by almost 1100% from 2015 to 2017.
Back to the basics
While it’s the responsibility of real estate businesses to invest in the most secure technology systems, it’s also important to nail down the fundamentals of safe information exchange and eliminate opportunities for cybercriminals to gain from human error.
Abagnale keeps a finger on the pulse of the latest tactics used by today’s cybercriminals and consults businesses to develop technology to safeguard consumers and stay a step ahead of criminals. His FORE Summit presentation will offer a deeper understanding of the evolving security landscape and how to outsmart criminals through an understanding of how fraudsters think.