Wire Scams and Fraud

As with every industry where large sums of money are involved, scams are out there in full force. The real estate industry is no different.

First, what scams are we seeing?

Scammers love to quietly hack into real estate agents emails. It comes in the form of a link in an email that gets clicked, or a rogue app on a tablet or phone that gets downloaded. From there, the hacker just sits in the background, watching your email for signs of a transaction.

Once they see you’re working on a sale, they start to pay attention and gather information on the involved parties – you, your title/escrow or attorney, lenders, your clients such as emails, phone numbers, escrow numbers and more.

With that information they set to work on the scam.

The Scam in Motion

The scammer will usually email your clients, using the logos and signature lines that your escrow officer or agent is using. They make it look as legitimate as possible. In that email, they tell the client that more money is needed to complete the transaction – more earnest money, more down payment. An unsuspecting client will just go ahead and wire the money.

In the past year, we’ve seen these scammers actually CALL clients and request more funds. Yes. They are that bold.

How To Stop The Cycle

As agents, it is absolutely imperative that we let our clients know about this and explain to them how we are protecting their data, and, most importantly, how they can protect themselves.

1. NEVER accept wire instructions via an unsecured email. Ask your title company to send via secure system.

2. Tell your clients to confirm such requests on the phone with their escrow officer, lender or with you. Immediately. Ask them to forward any emails.

3. Remind them constantly about these scams, and any new ones you hear about.

4. Report all situations to your brokers, lenders and escrow companies so that they are aware as well.

Be extremely vigilant here. Stay up to date on the warnings from your affiliates. If you don’t automatically get those warnings, ask to be added to their email lists.

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