Currently, there have been several instances where fraudulent wiring instructions have been emailed to clients shortly before closing. According to the May 2016 Realtor Mag article by Erica Christoffer and Graham Wood, the threat is very real.
Hackers are gaining access to e-mail accounts through captured passwords and they are searching inboxes for messages related to real estate transactions. Once they find a victim who is in the process of buying a home, they’ll send a spoof e-mail that looks like its from their title representative, attorney or agent. It will say there are “new” wiring instructions, which includes a fraudulent account. The home buyer then unwitting sends funds directly into the hacker’s account. Please be aware, once you send it, the money is gone! Millions of dollars are being lost as a result of this.
Awareness has to be raised on this subject and education is the key to protecting yourself and recognizing red flags.
Here are some tips for keeping your transaction secure:
1. Be very clear as to how you will communicate with your Realtor, Attorney and Title Representative. Do not discuss any personal financial information over e-mail.
2. If your agent, attorney or title representative ask you to engage in a wire transfer, call them on the phone immediately prior to the transfer of funds so that you know you are sending money to a legitimate source. Check any account numbers with them. If your attorney needs your account information to send you a wire, you should never email complete account information; always withhold part or all of the account number, and call them with that information.
3. Avoid free Wi-Fi with no firewall to protect against hackers capturing an e-mail password or other sensitive information.
4. Always use strong passwords and change them regularly. It also wouldn’t hurt to change your password before wire instructions are sent.
The following is a short video which will give you some education on the threat of wire fraud. If you have any questions, please give me a call at (732) 261-6151.