mFilterIt, the leading global fraud detection and prevention company, has released its study on the reality of digital frauds in the real estate industry. The study found out that a prominent Real estate player had up to 400% of fake websites created by fraudsters, revealing the menace in digital platforms of the industry.
With the pandemic on a downward trend, the real estate sector is witnessing momentum with interest and leads from potential buyers. Like any other industry, the rising usage of digital platforms in the real estate industry is becoming more prevalent, which also brings forward the associated risks of digital fraud.
The study brought out that a prominent real estate player had a total of 387 fake/misrepresentation websites, using the brand’s name unauthorisedly and even incorporating the names of the projects.
The study further revealed that to receive more traffic on fake websites, the fraudsters were using unethical practices like bidding on other brands and project keywords on search engines.
Around 297 fake websites were bidding on 31 other brand keywords, and 90 fake websites were bidding on other 41 project keywords to attract more visitors to fraud customers. Bidding on keywords is a paid activity available on the search engine to optimise the searchability of a particular website on the web.
Amit Relan, CEO and Co-Founder, mFilterIt, said, “Today the issue of digital fraud is a growing threat across industries. However, our study in the real estate sector surprised us with its magnitude and considering the industry also registers high-value transactions, it’s a matter of great concern. We have been working with clients in this sector and it’s heartening to see that brands are becoming more responsible, but we believe much more needs to be done by all stakeholders including government and other industry bodies.”
According to the Indian Real Estate Outlook 2022 report by CIRIL, the real estate market is expected to contribute to about 13% of the country's GDP by 2025 and is estimated to grow to Rs 65,000 crore by 2040. Given the sheer size of this sector alone, real estate firms in India spend a huge capital on campaigns and other promotional activities, including digital platforms.
To spread awareness, mFilterIt has specified the advisory for real estate buyers and threats to the industry to save themselves from being cheated and boost awareness. The highlights from the report are:
Without any RERA approvals, the fake/unapproved websites went live with the ‘sale' of the projects. This could result in a regulatory issue for the brand. RERA specifies a set of information, such as super carpet area, built-up area, and so on, that must be provided when promoting real estate. The fake websites do not provide all the necessary information, so customers should take care of this point in mind.
Safeguarding the consumer interests are also Brand’s Responsibility. For a consumer it is very difficult to identify the fake websites propagating misleading offers, wrong information on super-area, built-up area, amenities, payment plans, accessories offered, completion and possession plans etc. Moreover, these fake websites can dupe the consumers into the projects which are not having any proper government or RERA approvals.
The reputation of a real estate brand is everything, including the reputation surrounding project completion, possession, and so on. The false information and claims on these bogus websites increase the vulnerability of trust.
The asset is mostly delivered in the future, and the buyer is asked to make incremental payments beginning with the booking amount. Scammers could use fake websites to extract money in a systematic manner.
A prospect leaves highly sensitive information, such as personal identifiers such as mobile phone numbers, to be approached. Scammers could take advantage of this information. The fake websites were driving traffic not only from project-specific searches, but also from a pool of brand-related keywords.