Alert: E-mail Scams Hitting Real Estate Transactions

December 15, 2015

It’s a busy time for real estate professionals as they contend with high transaction volume during year-end closings. But hackers are busy, too, and the National Association of REALTORS® has received reports that sophisticated e-mail scams are targeting the real estate industry.

In the typical scam, the criminal hacks into the e-mail account of a real estate agent or other person involved in the transaction and uses information that’s been acquired to dupe a party to the transaction, usually the buyer, into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hacker will send a legitimate-looking e-mail informing the buyer of a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and that’s the last that’s seen of the money. It’s not a distant treat.

NAR Legal Affairs has developed a checklist to help you recognize and avoid this kind of fraud. Among the tips:

  • Do not send sensitive information via e-mail. If you must, use encrypted e-mail. 
  • Do not click on unverified e-mail.
  • Do not conduct business over unsecured Wi-Fi.
  • The party wiring money should never send money without first verifying the recipient by phone (calling only a verified phone number).
  • If fraud is suspected, contact all parties to the transaction without delay.

—Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine.