Today, we are taking a break from the usual Did You Know format to alert you of a recent scam affecting real estate agents in our area.
If you did not already know, our industry has been especially targeted by hackers and fraudsters. Recently, there have been several email hacking or spoofing cases in the area targeting settlement companies, relocation companies, real estate agents and others in our industry. Usually the hackers are trying to divert the seller’s proceeds to their own accounts by hacking or spoofing the seller’s or listing agent’s email and telling the title agent to change the SELLER’s wiring instructions. Any settlement company you work with should be aware of this and have strict policies to address how it confirms that the seller’s proceeds are being wired to the correct account.
THIS WEEK, we were made aware of a new variation on this scheme. The hacker took over a buyer agent’s account and forwarded the BUYER “new” wiring instructions from the settlement company for the buyer to deposit his closing funds. The instructions were for THE HACKER’S ACCOUNT! How many times do you forward wiring instructions to your buyers? Many agents do this to facilitate the transaction for their clients. Here are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you:
- Have a policy that you will not forward wiring instructions at all.
- Tell your clients that hackers have been forging wiring instructions so that they know to be vigilant and skeptical.
- NEVER call the number in the email to confirm that the wiring instructions are correct. That number belongs to the hacker. Call a number you already have on file.
- DO NOT reply to an email seeking confirmation that wiring instructions are correct. The hacker will reply to your email and confirm that the wiring instructions are correct.
- DO have the buyer call the settlement company using an independently verified number. If you are representing the buyer, in most cases, you will know the settlement company and attorneys. Give the buyer a business card from the settlement company or provide a contact number over the phone. At Shulman Rogers, we mail every buyer an introduction letter with our wiring instructions.
- Share this email with your colleagues so they can better protect their clients and so we all can protect the reputation of our industry.