Tag Archives: fraud

Cybercrime Hitting Real Estate – Beware of Scams!

Source: RISMedia

Online criminals are targeting the real estate industry and stealing large sums of money from unwary homebuyers. This fraud can destroy real estate transactions, so the National Association of REALTORS® is urging real estate professionals across the country to immediately implement safety measures to reduce the risk of becoming a victim

In a typical scenario, a criminal will hack into the email account of the person involved in an upcoming real estate transaction. The hacker will then send a sham email to the buyer, or another individual who will be wiring transaction-related funds. The email will state that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions. Following the new instructions
contained in the email, the recipient will then wire the money directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever.

Most email users today can easily recognize the email scams that are rife with poor spelling and grammatical oddities. In contrast, the fraudulent emails being utilized in this wire scam are virtually indistinguishable from legitimate communications. Because hackers are gaining access to the email accounts of individuals directly involved in the transaction, they’re able to include detailed information in their fraudulent emails, including key names, dates, and mocked-up signature lines.

There are a number of measures that real estate agents and others involved in real estate transactions can take to help keep themselves and clients from falling victim to this crime. First, from the outset of any deal, inform all parties to the transaction of this ongoing scheme, to ensure that everyone stays alert to suspicious activity. Second, request that all parties implement reasonable security practices throughout the course of the transaction, such as only using confirmed telephone numbers or face-to-face communication to share sensitive financial or personal information. As a final failsafe, immediately prior to wiring any money, the person initiating the wire should call the intended recipient via a verified
telephone number to confirm the wiring instructions.

Other important steps to avoiding exposure to email fraud include:

  • Never conduct business over unsecured WiFi.
  • Clean out email accounts on a regular basis
  • Change email passwords on a regular basis
  • Implement complex passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Implement the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technologies.

If a fraudster has successfully infiltrated a transaction, NAR says:

  • If money has already been wired via false wiring instructions, immediately call all banks and financial institutions that could possibly stop the wire.
  • Contact your local police.
  • Contact all parties who may have been exposed during the attack so that they take appropriate action.
  • Change all passwords.
  • Report the activity to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center.

This advice is not all-inclusive, and real estate professionals should work with information technology and cybersecurity professionals to ensure that their email accounts, online systems, and business practices are as secure and up-to-date as possible.

ALERT: New scam robbing home buyers of closing funds

HomeNews

by Ryan Smith22 Mar 2016

 

The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors have issued a warning originators might want to pass on to their buyers.

According to the FTC and the NAR, there’s a mortgage-closing phishing scam going around that could leave buyers without a down payment. The scam involved hackers breaking into the email accounts of real estate professionals and consumers to access information about home buyers’ closing dates.

Once the hacker has the closing date, he’ll send an email to the buyer posing as the real estate professional or title company, according to the NAR. The scammer will say there’s been a “last-minute change” to the wiring instruction for closing funds and instruct the buyer to send the funds to a different account. That account, of course, really belongs to the hacker.

According to the FTC, buyers who fall prey to this scam could find their bank account cleaned out in “a matter of minutes” – and it’s unlikely they’ll ever see that money again.

“If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP,” the FTC stated in a bulletin on the scam. “Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that.”

“Buyers should be wary of sending financial information over email, downloading attachments, or responding to email requests to wire money in a real estate transaction,” said NAR President Tom Salamone.

The FTC’s top tips to avoid phishing scams

Here’s what the FTC has to say about avoiding falling prey to scams like this one:

  • Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
  • If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the “s” stands for secure). And instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sends them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.