Momentum - Business to Business Online Magazine MOMENTUM December 2018 - Page 18

Real Estate and Wire Fraud By: Deborah Bly RE/MAX Space Center - The Bly Team Kimberly McFarland First American Title Insurance Company Cybercrime is a rapidly growing problem across the globe. Real Estate Transactions have not been immune to Spear Phishing Scammers targeting hard earned dollars from bot buyers or sellers involved in a Real Estate transaction. For Buyers, they instruct the buyer that there are “new” wire instructions for depositing their money for closing and instruct the unsuspecting buyer to wire their funds using the new phony wiring instructions. Once the money is wired, they disappear along with the buyer’s funds for closing. The National Association of Realtors reported that in 2016 the annual global cost of cybercrime was a whopping $19 million. By 2017 that number grew to $1.4 Billion, and by 2019 that number is estimated to increase to an estimated $2.1 trillion. For Sellers it works much the same way only in the case of a Seller they pose as Seller requesting wire transfer of net proceeds. Gone are the days of the Phishing scams we used to hear about where someone would receive an email from a prince in a far-off country who needed help securing his millions. Those sad victims who fell for these tall tales would then wire in their own hard-earned money in hopes of cashing in on that alleged fortune, only to learn it was all a hoax. Today’s Phishing scammers have become much more sophisticated, and they are targeting home buyers and sellers. Well intentioned home buyers and sellers are falling victim to these scams every day and losing everything that they have worked long and hard for. Per FBI statistics, record number of wire fraud victims were reported across the country this past selling season. The anatomy of these Real Estate Phishing Scams usually follow the same outline. A scammer hacks into an email account and begins to watch for emails with information regarding a pending real estate transaction. They then use information such as email addresses, email signatures and phone numbers to pose as someone related to the transaction (realtor, title company, lender, seller, etc.) Once they sense a moment of distraction or anticipation, the fraudster will then intercept into the email thread posing as the title company. 17 MOMENTUM / December 2018 These criminals are virtually untraceable, and funds stolen will likely never be recovered. So how can you avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams? • Protect your email. Enable security measures like multi factor authentication on email accounts • Call before you wire funds. If something seems strange, call a verified phone number to confirm any and all wiring instructions. Do NOT call the number on the email to verify! • Slow down! Hackers count on deadlines driving people to act quickly. • If you discover a fraudulent transfer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and request that they recall the funds. • Inspect every email. Look for subtle differences in email address of accounts that appear the same as those from the title company, lender or your real estate agent. Be aware of last-minute changes that don’t seem legitimate and improper grammar or common phrases being misused. We are in a rapid techno changing world and these criminals are smart and adapt quickly. It is up to all of us to take responsibility and beware!