If you work in real estate, chances are there’s a hacker somewhere trying to gain access to your clients’ private information. Bad guys use it to intervene in wire transfers and steal money when real estate is changing hands.
One ploy that’s on the rise is called phone porting, the Better Business Bureau warns. In a porting scam, thieves report a victim’s cell phone lost or stolen and have their number assigned to a new phone.
With access to the targeted person’s calls and texts, the thieves then work on accessing accounts – bank, email, etc. They can even pose as a legitimate party to a home sale and divert funds to an overseas bank.
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance recently issued a bulletin with these tips for professionals in the real estate and title/settlement industries to help combat wire fraud and other common heists stemming from the compromise of personal information:
Closely verify email addresses before using them. Scammers mimic legitimate addresses and subject lines, but if you look closely, you can find differences.
Avoid using web-based email.
Strictly follow your specific business procedures for confirming the validity of changes made to wire transfer instructions.
Use a confirmation process, which may include verbal communication via a mutually agreed telephone number between the known parties, as well as mutually agreed code words designed to combat theft in cases of phone porting.
Get to know the fraud resistance capacity of your third-party service providers, especially closing agents.
Ask your closing or settlement company what their normal wire transfer policies are, and be careful to recognize suspicious variations.
If wire transfer fraud happens to you, call your local FBI field office immediately.