WE ALL have heard the words “cyber fraud”, “wire fraud”, “email phishing”. We all think, “This would never happen to me.” Wire fraud happens more often than you think. Over the past few years there has been much discussion and training about preventing outbound wires from being intercepted. As an ALTA Certified Title Agency, we have many levels of protection in place and follow strict guidelines before sending out any wires. We have all outbound wire instructions signed by recipients and we do not allow changes in those instructions unless said changes are given to us in person. We call to verbally verify wire instructions once again before submitting our wire requests.
Criminals are now targeting the inbound wire of cash to close sent by the buyer. These criminals often begin the wire fraud process well before the attempted theft occurs. They are hacking into email accounts of those involved in a real estate transaction and waiting for the wire instructions to show up in the inbox. The hacker then downloads them, deletes the message with the accurate document, and resend updated wire instructions either from a spoofed account of the title company or from a fake “personal” account from the Closer.
IT IS DETRIMENTAL that you CALL US before sending us any funds to verbally verify our wiring instructions. Do not use the phone number in an email. Call us at a phone number you know is accurate. Heed the warning that is in the signature line of your Closer’s email “Please verbally verify wiring instructions with us prior to sending funds”.
This exact situation recently happened to one of our buyers. The buyer’s email account was compromised. The hacker was intercepting emails from our closer, deleting the emails, and sending emails with fraudulent wire instructions. This buyer wired over $400,000 to the hacker’s bank account. We are sharing this story because we DO NOT want this to happen to you.
Here are some things to look for:
- Legitimate versus fraudulent email addresses
- Spelling and grammatical errors in the body of the email
- Fake logo, company names, or phone numbers
- If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right; trust your gut
WE WILL NEVER CHANGE OUR WIRE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE COURSE OF A TRANSACTION. Contact our office immediately if you feel that you are being victim of a phishing scam. We will contact the FBI to help file a complaint.