Beware of Email Scams targeting wire transfers in Real Estate Transactions
Recent reports show that there is an uptick of email scams targeting wire transfers of real estate buyers. Sophisticated criminals are trying to steal money from unsuspecting buyers.
Here is how it works:
- Criminals hack into email accounts of someone involved in your real estate transaction.
- The criminal then steals information relating to the transaction.
- The criminals then email unsuspecting buyers from an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction. These emails inform the buyer there has been a last minute change in wiring instructions and dupe them into wiring funds to the hackers account.
It is important to proactively communicate with your escrow and title contacts to verify proper wire instructions. The National Association of Realtors has urged all members to be on high alert for these types of email scams or fraud. Here are some recommendations per NAR for fraud prevention:
Follow this guidance from Realtor.org to avoid becoming a victim of email scams targeting wire transfers:
•Immediately contact all parties to all of your upcoming transactions and inform them of the possibility of this fraud. Attorneys, escrow agents, buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and title agents have all been targeted in these scams. You can also download and distribute NAR’s online fraud prevention handout, accessible here. •If possible, do not send sensitive information via email. If you must use email to send sensitive information, use encrypted email. •Immediately prior to wiring any money, the person sending the money must call the intended recipient to verify the wiring instructions. Only use a verified telephone number to make this call. •Do not trust contact information in unverified emails. The hackers will recreate legitimate-looking signature blocks with their own telephone number. In addition, fraudsters will include links to fake websites to further convince victims of their legitimacy. •Never click on any links in an unverified email. In addition to leading you to fake websites, these links can contain viruses and other malicious spyware that can make your computer – and your transactions – vulnerable to attack. •Never conduct business over unsecured wifi. •Trust your instincts. Tell clients that if an e-mail or a telephone call ever seems suspicious or “off,” that they should refrain from taking any action until the communication has been independently verified as legitimate. •Clean out your e-mail account on a regular basis. Your e-mails may establish patterns in your business practice over time that hackers can use against you. In addition, a longstanding backlog of e-mails may contain sensitive information from months or years past. You can always save important e-mails in a secure location on your internal system or hard drive. •Change your usernames and passwords on a regular basis, and make sure your employees and licensees do the same. •Never use usernames or passwords that are easy to guess. Never, ever use the password “password.” •Make sure to implement the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technologies in your business.
If you believe your e-mail or any other account has been hacked, or that you or a client has otherwise been a victim of online fraud, you should take the following steps: •If money has been wired via false wiring instructions, immediately call all banks and financial institutions that could possibly put a stop to the wire. •Contact your local police. •Contact any clients or other parties who may have been exposed during the attack so that they take appropriate action. Remind them not to comply with any requests from an unverified source. •Change all usernames and passwords associated with any account that you believe may have been compromised or otherwise made vulnerable by the attack. •Report any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations via their Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information can be found by clicking here. •Brokers should report any fraudulent activity to their state or local REALTOR® association so that the associations can send out alerts or take other appropriate action, including contacting NAR. Email Scams targeting wire transfers are real threats and you should do all you can to protect your assets from cyber-crime. Be sure to use a real estate broker you trust that can guide you safely through your transaction. Contact Jesse Madison 949.306.8416 for all your Orange County Real Estate needs.