Fraud Alert: Protect Yourself from this Email Scam
Real estate transactions routinely involve the transfer of large sums of money, typically through wire transfers. Given the electronic nature of these transactions, they are somewhat susceptible to fraud. The loss of funds and the dream of homeownership for a buyer or seller can be absolutely devastating.
Recently the National Association of Realtors(R) issued a warning about a sophisticated wire fraud scam. According to this article on the NAR website (http://www.realtor.org/articles/urgent-alert-sophisticated-email-scams-targeting-the-real-estate-industry):
“Criminals are hacking into the email accounts of real estate agents or other persons involved in a real estate transaction and using information gained from the hack to dupe a party into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hackers often send an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction, informing the recipient, often the buyer, that there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions. Following the new instructions, the recipient will wire funds directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever.”
First and foremost: Exercise extreme caution when sharing transaction information with anyone. Email is not necessarily the best way to communicate wire information, for example. Doing so by phone, to a verified, trusted number is a far better strategy.
Second: Confirm and “last minute” changes with parties involved, preferably on phone or in person.
Third: Never, ever click on links in email messages without absolute confidence the sender is valid and the destination is clear. Often scams will attempt users to “click here to review the document” or “click here for a private message.” Remember: No context = no click!
If you suspect you may have inadvertently fallen victim to this scam, contact all banks involved immediately, as well as anyone directly involved in the transaction.
Security is everyone’s responsibility. While we may rely every day on the conveniences electronic communication affords us, don’t hesitate to slow things down and protect yourself with a little extra human interaction.
Have questions about real estate transactions? I am happy to help guide you through the process. Contact me today!