Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Real Estate News: Wire Fraud Scam

If you are in the middle of a real estate transaction, as a buyer, seller, broker, or agent, you need to know about the wire fraud scam that is targeting these transactions right now.  As a part of the ERA Real Estate family, we were recently informed about a new way that our customers, colleagues, and friends are being victimized--and I want to make sure to pass that information on to you!

The scam starts with the title agent or real estate agent's email account being hacked and revised bank wiring instructions being sent to the buyer.  When the buyer receives these new instructions from what s/he thinks is a reputable source, the money is redirected to a new account (opened and cleaned out quickly by the criminal behind the hacking) and is gone before the buyer knows what has happened.

How can YOU prevent this from happening to you, as a buyer or seller or as a title agent or broker?
  • Practice good email safety measures.  Create strong passwords that cannot be guessed easily (no birth dates or children's names, especially in this environment of social media) and don't ever open unfamiliar attachments. If it seems strange, don't click on it--confirm before you take a chance.  
  • Be suspicious of changed wire instructions. It's very rare for a title agent or real estate agent to change the means of funds transmission in the middle of a deal.  If this happens, you should assume that you are dealing with a scam and contact the person directly
  • Call the sender to confirm any suspicious changes.  Don't email, because obviously the email may have been compromised. Call the phone number that you had at the beginning of the transaction (not the phone number that was sent in the suspicious email, as that may have been compromised as well).  Make sure you speak to the person with whom you were working before and confirm the change.  Have that person confirm all of the wire instruction account details while you are on the phone.  

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