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How to protect ourselves from wire fraud.

May 4th, 2018 8:45 AM by Sam Kader

Real estate transactions are targets for wire fraud simply because we relied too much on the wire instructions received via email. 

In a nutshell - here's how the wire fraud scheme usually works:

  1. Hackers identify lenders and real estate agents as potential targets by
    navigating their websites and copying any personal or business information, including company logos, employee names, physical addresses, and email addresses of escrow agents, real estate brokers, and lenders. All of this information becomes useful in establishing a false identity in subsequent emails.
  2. The hackers then hack directly into the email accounts of the real estate agent and/or broker and identify emails referencing pending real estate transactions. From these strings of emails, the hackers pull out specific details about the deal, such as: the parties' names, the title company involved, the escrow officer in charge of the deal, and other information specific to the transaction.
  3. The hackers then use any gathered company logos, personal and/or business information, and transaction details to create a fraudulent email that looks legitimate on its face, and then send this fraudulent email directly to the buyer or lender, making it look like it was sent by the real estate agent, mortgage broker, or escrow agent. These fraudulent emails now direct the buyer and/or lender to wire the funds necessary to close escrow directly to a different bank account than provided in the escrow instructions. The new bank account is controlled by the hacker, not the title company or the escrow holder.
  4. Verify immediately upon sending your wire. Detecting that you sent the money to the wrong account within 24 hours gives you the best chance of recovering your money. 
  5. If the fraudulent email request is not caught by the buyer or lender, then the money is wired to the bogus account controlled by the hacker and is immediately withdrawn. Due to the amounts involved and the complex nature of investigating and prosecuting wire fraud, the odds are that the authorities will do nothing to help in these instances.
One way of combating this problem is for wire instructions and email communication to be be sent via encrypted email. There are other ways that we can be vigilant as well

Posted by Sam Kader on May 4th, 2018 8:45 AM

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