Please be advised that over the past few weeks we have heard of several instances where fraudulent wiring instructions have been emailed to clients shortly before closing.
NEVER wire transfer funds without calling and speaking with your attorney to confirm wiring instructions. Even if an email with wire instructions looks like it has come from our office or from someone involved in your transaction, call your attorney first to verify the information before sending any money via wire transfer. If your attorney needs your account information to send you a wire, you should never email complete account information; always withhold part or all of the account number, and call them with that information.
According to the May 2016 Realtor Mag article by Erica Christoffer and Graham Wood, the threat of wire fraud transfer is real. In the article, Katie Johnson, General Counsel for the National Association of Realtors, explains that “hackers are gaining access to e-mail accounts through captured passwords, and they’ll search inboxes for messages related to real estate transactions. Once they find a victim who’s in the process of buying a home, they’ll send a spoof e-mail that looks like it’s from their agent, title representative, or attorney, and it will say there are ‘new’ wiring instructions, which includes a fraudulent account. The homebuyer will then unwittingly wire funds directly into the hacker’s account.” Johnson adds, “once they send it, the money is gone. Millions of dollars are lost on this.”
Awareness and education are the key to protecting yourself from wire fraud scams. Jessica Edgerton, NAR Associate Counsel, offers these tips:
- Be clear about how you will communicate with your real estate professional; let them know that you will not discuss personal financial information over email.
- Do not engage in a wire transfer unless you receive a call from your agent immediately prior to the transfer letting you know that funds are going to a legitimate source.
- Avoid free Wi-Fi with no firewall to protect against hackers capturing an email password or other sensitive information.
- Always use strong passwords and change them regularly. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to change your password before wire instructions are sent.
The following short video is a brief education on the threat of wire fraud. If you have additional questions or concerns, give the Sue Adler Team a call at 973-936-9129 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rest assured that we continually educate our staff and sales associates on the threat of wire fraud and that protecting your best interest and providing a smooth, risk-free real estate transaction is of the utmost importance to us. We are yours to count on!