– Crystal Vagnier – Select Group – Writer/Editor
As you all know, wire fraud continues to plague our industry with attacks coming every day. For a year or two, the industry guidance has been to educate buyers that wire transfer instructions should be confirmed by phone to avoid fraud by email. That approach has successfully prevented wire frauds across the country. Now, criminals have developed a new scam: calling buyers directly to provide new wire instructions to steal closing funds. We are seeing this new scheme happening across the industry.
How does it work? Hackers continue to break into email accounts of everyone involved in a Real Estate transaction so they can access client information and closing details. Now, rather than emailing new instructions, the thieves use contact information from emails to call the buyer directly and convince them that there are “new wire instructions.” Before checking in with their agents, the buyers wire the funds to a fraudulent account.
We need to act quickly to protect clients from this new threat. Please make sure you are guiding your clients by advising them to:
- Always personally verify wire instructions.
- Use only phone numbers they have called before or can otherwise verify are legitimate.
- Be very suspicious of emails and phone calls with purportedly updated, revised or corrected wiring instructions. It is extremely rare that a lawyer or title agent will change wire instructions during the course of a transaction.
- Have every client sign our “Wire Fraud Advisory” Form which gives the detailed instructions.
To protect yourself, make sure you take these steps:
- Use complex passwords and change them frequently. Remember, hackers are actively trying to break into your email. Don’t make it easy for them to do so.
- Activate two-factor authentication. This is critical when you use a personal email account, such as Gmail, Yahoo or AOL. This adds another layer of security, like a fingerprint scan or unique code, for access to your email.
Please take time to review your security measures to ensure you’re doing all you can to keep information – and your clients’ funds – secure.