Real Estate Trends & Advice

Thieves are Targeting You
By Jim Palmer Jr.

Real estate wire fraud continues to be one of the most prevalent cybercrimes in the U.S, which warrants yet another reminder to anyone who will be buying or selling real estate in the future.  Last year, losses to consumers rose 20% from the year prior, exceeding $200 million.  Those thieves never had to leave the comfort of their couch to pull off those hold ups!
Such fraudsters hack into broker and closer email accounts then assume the identity of one of these transaction facilitators by forging an email account that is almost identical to the real thing.  By using details from intercepted emails about the transaction, they impersonate those people who are closest to the transaction until their scam is complete.

The typical wire fraud scam looks something like this; Buyer Jane Doe was just a few days from completing the purchase of her first home when an email came from her closing company, ABC Title Company.  In that email she found directions for wiring her down payment and closing costs – a total of $43,256.  The communication made it sound urgent so she quickly wired the money-- literally all of her life savings as directed by the email. The next morning, Jane received a call from the “real” closer who stated they did not send that email, nor did they receive the funds.  Jane was horrified and heart broken when she realized that email was a fake sent by a scammer who was intentionally targeting homebuyers.

Sadly, stories like this are not uncommon and such enriched thieves rarely get caught.  Real estate wire fraud has been a problem for years and seems to have worsened during the Covid pandemic. It is estimated that one third of all real estate transactions include some sort of wire fraud attempt.

Real estate brokers are especially vulnerable to phishing attempts from such fraudsters, since they routinely advertise contact information.  You should automatically assume any email communication between you and your broker (or closer) is being monitored by some thief.
When the scammer has enough information to set the trap, they craft an email that very closely imitates a request from a legitimate closer, except that the wiring instructions are designed to funnel the funds into the scammers account.  “These spoofed emails are not the typical scam emails with misspellings and typos. These are targeted, well crafted emails.” says Andy White of ClosingLock.

Talk to your professional broker about surefire strategies to avoid such scams!

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Jim Palmer, Jr.
509-953-1666
www.JimPalmerJr.com

See my blogs at:
www.RealEstateMarketPlc.com
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