You’ve heard the horror stories – a real estate agent’s email is compromised. A message is sent to their clients, requesting that they wire funds for their home purchase to a new bank account.
The client – believing it’s a real email from their agent – follows the directions and sends their funds for closing. Unfortunately, the account belongs to hackers – criminals who’ve just stolen the client’s money.
If you’re in the real estate, mortgage or title industry, you have a bigger target on your back than most when it comes to what the FBI calls Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Email Account Compromise (EAC) fraud. Some of the latest wire fraud techniques involve cyber criminals contacting buyers as early as within the first few days of ratification.
How does it happen? Cyber criminals hack into email systems and monitor communication about transactions. The fraudsters then pose as one of the parties involved in the transactions, emailing the clients about a change in the wiring instructions. These criminals use information they’ve stolen to make changes to account numbers or payment methods to divert the money.
How can you protect yourself and your clients?
Work with a title company like one of Long & Foster Settlement Services Partners who utilize a secure online portal and have safeguards in place to verify clients’ identities and accounts multiple times before pushing transactions through. Ask this title company what measures are being taken to keep transactions safe and whether they follow industry best practices.
Make sure your clients sign and read Long & Foster’s Anti-Fraud Disclosure Statement, which you’ll find in Xcelerate. This outlines company policies such as we will never send requests to transfer funds or to access banking information.
Talk to your clients about wire fraud schemes. Tell them to NEVER accept wiring instructions via email, even if they appear to come from you or from your title company. As it gets closer to closing, remind your clients again about the dangers of wire fraud.
Read the security posters that are hanging in your offices – these provide you with insights on the types of crimes that scammers are committing and how to protect yourself and your clients against them.
Remain aware and vigilant. If you receive an email in your inbox that you’re suspicious of, contact the Help Desk immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-774-7747. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.