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Protecting your clients and business from wire fraud

Protecting your clients and business from wire fraud

As a techie with experience in cybersecurity, understanding how things can go wrong and learning to avoid it is very important to me.

As soon as the internet became a thing, scam artists jumped on board. Everything from emails pretending to be wealthy long-lost relatives, people building relationships with another in a foreign country whom they’ve never met, and receiving threats to expose deep dark secrets are communications to keep your eye on.

Financial fraud doesn’t stop at personal interactions, business owners and clients are at huge risk when performing transactions online. As an entrepreneur, real estate, or service-based business owner, chances are you’ve accepted payment through an online source at some point, whether through an e-transfer, PayPal, Stripe, or wire transfer.

If so, this is for you.

There are many ways to commit fraud. The simple act of pretending to be another person is fraudulent, but we’re going to focus specifically on cybersecurity and wire fraud.

Wire fraud is a huge problem that impacts many industries, especially real estate. As of late, wire fraud scams in real estate have increased over 45% from this time last year.

The act of wire fraud often involves pretending to be one party of the transaction. Using real estate as an example, the fraudster may pretend to be the title company, mortgage lender, or attorney involved in the purchase or sale of a property. They are able to interrupt an email server and scan content for words like Contract, Closing Date, or Clear to Close and know that in the near future you’ll be sending your money along.

Click here to check out my client Jenette, the broker and owner of Elite Property Sales, story about how her client narrowly avoided being scammed out of their down payment when buying a new home in Clermont, Florida.

Email accounts from free providers like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are significantly more susceptible because their accounts run on a single server, rather than having a private server set up for your business domain emails. If a business has an email address like mine hello@hillaryrobert.ca, you can ask if they use a private server to host their emails and if that server is secure. A secure server has an added layer of encryption which makes it more difficult for hackers and fraudsters to intercept and read information off their servers. But keep in mind, it takes two to tango. Your email server must also be secure.

The next step is often the most frightening. A fraudster can clone your email server and send a message that appears to be coming from you or one of your business partners. In real estate, this can include the title representative or lender. Their email will likely have the instructions for payment.

If you typically accept payments through wire transfer, the fraudulent email might include an account or routing number that appears to be local, but in fact is a shell that transfers out of the country. If you accept payments through services like PayPal, the email might include a link to a platform that looks like PayPal but instead sends the money to another account or processes the transaction as payment to another gateway. If you accept payments by credit card through Stripe, Square, or other similar programs, the email might include a link to a fake website where a user would enter their credit card details and be charged by the fraudulent account.

Credit card payments are often the safest way for a consumer to protect their money because companies like Visa and Mastercard have systems in place to reclaim funds and return them to the customer if they’ve been defrauded.

For larger transactions, it’s sometimes not possible to use a credit card, therefore, it is important to make sure you communicate with clients the proper steps to send a wire transfer and what they should look out for to avoid being scammed.

If you suspect someone is trying to commit fraud or scam your business or clients, even if they haven’t made a transfer or incurred a loss, immediately report it to your local FBI field office in the USA or to the RCMP in Canada. Both are working hard to solve this crisis but can’t do it without reports and new information.

 To protect your clients and your business, have a discussion about what your invoicing looks like or how a high-value money transfer should be made. Ask them to contact you upon receiving an invoice, payment instructions, or wire transfer instructions to confirm the information they’ve received is legitimate.

A lot of times, when the money is gone it’s gone forever.

It is our responsibility as business owners and service providers to keep our clients informed and help protect them from the real dangers of financial fraud.

The 7% Rule: Building client relationships with better communication

The 7% Rule: Building client relationships with better communication

Have you ever sent a text message and the person receiving it to took it the wrong way?

Maybe it was a joke, asking for a favour, or pointing out something that they could improve on. Whatever the context, the most common cause of miscommunications over text conversations is The 7% Rule.

The 7% Rule implies that 93% of communication is non-verbal. That means to deliver the most effective communication and convey the most effective message, we need to be able to interpret body language and tone of voice in addition to the words spoken.

Seven-percent represents the significance of the words used to convey a message. By removing tone of voice and body language from our communication, which is what happens when we send an email or a text message, we are delivering a message that is 93% more likely to be misinterpreted and cause us grief.

There is a lot of debate in scientific communities about the accuracy of the percentages, but the one thing no one disagrees on, non-verbal communication makes up for a huge portion of conveying a message well.

Let’s do a little exercise.

Below, I’m going to write two emotions. Emotion is a big influence on tone of voice and body language, so I want you to imagine saying the same sentence while conveying the emotion described.

Ready?

The sentence is: Wow, that’s unbelievable.

Now try it. Say the sentence in a way that conveys these feeling:

Disappointment
Excitement

Different, huh?

When conveying disappointment, you probably used a sterner tone, spoke in a deeper voice, and maybe even used a twinge of sarcasm.

When conveying excitement, you probably had a smile on your face, spoke at a higher octave, and pushed through a bit of enthusiasm and appreciation.

Now imagine receiving a text message with those words. Without the ability to interpret tone of voice or body language, it’s left to you to decide how you’re going to receive the message. The way you interpret the message can be dependent on your own mood or previous experiences in receiving feedback.

In business communication, so often we send messages over social media, email, or mobile texting without thinking anything of it. It’s normal in our tech-driven society because it’s convenient and efficient. We literally have the world at our fingertips.

But is this method of communication effective?

When talking to clients or prospects, having clear communication is essential to building trust. That’s one of the many reasons why video is such an effective tool for service-based small business owners to capture an audience’s attention, build trust and rapport, and convert them into loyal clients.

In order to effectively communicate your message to an audience, quickly build trust with a potential client, and significantly lower the risk of miscommunicating your services and guarantees, the most effective method to communicate is through face-to-face interaction.

Lucky for us, the internet makes this possible without having to meet in-person. Tools like Zoom, Skype, Duo, and Facebook Messenger all allow for video or audio conversations but are seriously underused in business communication.

In conclusion, if you want to improve your communication with an audience, build relationships faster, and earn their trust enough that they’ll purchase from you, you need to do more than show up in their inbox every so often.

As an entrepreneur, real estate, or service-based small business owner, you have all the tools to have face-to-face conversations with prospective clients around the world. More than 75% of the population owns smartphones and has access to video technology. Video conversations are as normal as writing a letter in the 1800s or picking up the phone in the late 1900s.

Learning to use these tools effectively will have a huge impact on your client relationships, a positive influence on how many deals you close, and allow you to reach more people with your message in a way that speaks to them and builds their trust.

What is Content Marketing?

What is Content Marketing?

It’s amazing how many business owners and marketers don’t understand the importance of good content. They truly believe that posting anything on social media, or sending a random newsletter asking for referrals, potential clients are going to come knocking—because that’s what it looks like everyone else is doing.

But it’s rarely the case.

Content marketing is an integral part of any marketing strategy. It is the art and science of creating and sharing material such as blog posts, videos, and social media posts that don’t explicitly sell a service, instead stimulate interest around a brand or what they have to offer.

In simple terms:

Content marketing is every piece of material you create. Whether it is in print, on your website, or shared on social media. Content is everything.

A flyer? Yep, the content on that piece of paper will decide how many people pick up the phone versus throw your ad in the garbage.

Facebook ads? Every wonder why some ads do so much better than others? It’s because their content speaks to the intended target audience and encouraged potential clients to take action.

Video series? What you put in those videos will determine whether you build a relevant audience or the people you want to see your material move on to more interesting creators.

Every word you write, every video you film, and every photo or infographic you create are content marketing.

The best content marketing tells a story.

Not necessarily a long-winded recount of your business adventure, but well thought out stories that captivate your audience, relate to their struggles, and help them see that hiring you is the only logical way to solve their problem.

There is a reason why some people are able to build a loyal brand following and other small businesses struggle to keep the doors open.

Three key elements to content marketing are that what you put out into the world is:

Relevant:

Of interest to your target audience. A baker wants to know about baking, not spaceships.

Timely: 

Relevant to current affairs or the current state of your client’s life and the problem that you solve. Can also include viral trends and news events that would directly impact your target audience.

Valuable:

Genuinely provides insightful information, actionable steps, or a solution to a problem facing your target audience so you gain their trust and establish credibility.

Content marketing is a long-term strategy that needs to evolve with your client and their needs so that you become a trusted source of information and guidance as they make their way through the buyer journey.

Consistency is a key ingredient of a successful content marketing strategy.

The more you show up with relevant content, the more loyal and dependable your audience will be. Even better if you stick to a schedule so your audience knows when they can expect new valuable content from your business that might apply to their needs. If you consistently deliver awesome value and solutions to minor problems your ideal client faces, you will be the natural choice when they decide to hire an expert to solve their bigger problems.

Great marketing is impossible without great content.

In conclusion, what separates successful small businesses from those that fail within the first three years is being able to consistently attract new and relevant clients to their business by establishing trust, credibility, and dependability.

When you become the natural choice for your audience, your business will never run out of clients.

When you deliver and perform well for your clients, they’ll send even more your way.

Three hacks to stay productive and crush your goals

Three hacks to stay productive and crush your goals

What’s the hardest part of being your own boss? Accountability. If it’s not first place on your list, it’s definitely near the top.

Being able to hold yourself accountable has a direct impact on productivity. If you can’t be accountable to yourself and your clients, there is no reason to get things done. Procrastination kicks in and tasks start to pile up, time management goes out the window and eventually, it seems near impossible to get everything done.

But it’s not a death sentence for you or your business.

The solution comes down to understanding your work habits and developing a plan that helps you accomplish your to-do list without sacrificing your sanity.

Here are three hacks to stay productive and check tasks off your to-do list, even on the hardest days:

1. Time Blocking

Do you have a hard time finding time to work? Time blocking may be the solution you’re looking for. At the beginning of the week when you’re planning your schedule, set aside blocks of time in your calendar where you cannot make appointments. Treat these just as seriously as a client appointment. Plan what you need to accomplish in advance, so you go into the time with a clear list of priorities. This helps reduce the risk of twiddling your thumbs and getting distracted by things like social media and the internet.

2. Stay off your social media newsfeeds

Social media is the easiest way to get distracted from real work, especially if you have to maintain a social and digital presence for your business. There are tools like the Newsfeed Eradicator that prevent you from seeing the latest updates on Facebook. Another option is to bookmark your business page, group, or profile links so you can bypass getting sucked into pictures and videos of cute dogs doing funny things. You can take it a step further by removing social media applications from your phone. This makes getting caught up in your social feeds more difficult and lets you check them when it’s intentional, not convenient.

3. Take a break

It’s hard to focus when you force yourself to do it 24/7. Instead, let yourself take a break when you need to. This applies to both the big picture and narrow focus. In your day-to-day, schedule breaks in between tasks where you can get up and walk around the block or have a snack. This makes it easier to focus for longer periods of time. When looking at the big picture, make sure that you are allowing yourself to take a few days off here and there, and are spending enough time socializing with friends and family. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget the most important parts of life. Taking a break is proven to make humans more productive.

Understanding your work habits, prioritizing your most important tasks, and being intentional about your schedule will help you organize and tackle what you need to do to move yourself and your business to the next level.