Help buyers avoid falling victim to a growing real estate scam that dupes them into giving their purchase money to hackers.
Hackers are gaining access to e-mail accounts through captured passwords, and they’ll search inboxes for messages related to real estate transactions. Once they find a victim who’s in the process of buying a home, they’ll send a spoof e-mail that looks like it’s from their agent, title representative, or attorney, and it will say there are “new” wiring instructions, which includes a fraudulent account. The home buyer will then unwittingly wire funds directly into the hacker’s account.
“Once they send it, the money is gone,”. “Millions of dollars are lost on this.”
Here are six tips for keeping the transaction secure:
1. Build a standard warning about wire scams into your e-mail signature or include a disclaimer at the bottom of your e-mails that says you will not discuss personal financial information over e-mail.
2. At the beginning of every transaction, tell clients what your communication practices are.
3. If you or your agents do engage in a wire transfer with a client, call them on the phone immediately prior to the transfer of funds so they know they’re sending money to the legitimate source.
4. You and your clients should avoid free Wi-Fi with no firewall to protect against hackers capturing an e-mail password or other sensitive information.
5. Always use strong passwords and change them regularly; advise your clients to do the same. It also wouldn’t hurt for your client to change their password before wire instructions are sent.
6. Brokers should consider employing a staff person who’s responsible for monitoring, updating, and implementing information security systems and procedures at your company.
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