Scammers Phish To Steal Mortgage Funds.
Few things are more exciting than buying a new home. Everything about the decision is important. This will be your home, your family’s home and the place where you create your lifelong memories.
In addition, for most people buying a home will be the largest single purchase they will ever make. It’s complicated and intimidating and most people rely heavily on their real estate agent to guide them through the process. Unfortunately, a new dimension has recently been added to the home buying process that puts mortgage funds at risk.
Homebuyers are now targets for hackers looking to steal mortgage funds just before closing. Here’s a look at how the phishing scam works.
The Ins And Outs Of The New Phishing Scam
In conjunction with the National Association of Realtors®, the FTC is warning home buyers to be wary of a new email and money wiring scam. The new scam is led by various hackers who break into consumer and Real Estate agents’ email accounts to steal valuable information about upcoming Real Estate transactions. Once the hackers have figured out the closing date, they will pretend to be the acting Realtor or title company and send the buyer an email saying that there has “been a last minute change to the wiring instructions.” The email will include further instructions on where the buyer should wire the closing costs.
Through this simple phishing email scam, hackers are able to easily steal a buyer’s valuable funds. The FTC is urging both buyers and sellers to be wary of any suspicious emails with money-wiring instructions. In fact, the government agency stresses that email is not a secure way to send financial information. If you receive a suspicious email with money-wiring instructions, don’t click on any links, and don’t send any money. Stop to speak with your team of Real Estate professionals and report the email to the FTC.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
If you or someone you know become victims of a scam such as this and find that a hacker has stolen your mortgage funds, here is a guide of what actions to take immediately from the National Association of Realtors.
If you believe your e-mail or any other account has been hacked, or that you or a client has otherwise been a victim of online fraud, you should take the following steps:
- If money has been wired via false wiring instructions, immediately call all banks and financial institutions that could possibly put a stop to the wire.
- Contact your local police.
- Contact any clients or other parties who may have been exposed during the attack so that they take appropriate action. Remind them not to comply with any requests from an unverified source.
- Change all usernames and passwords associated with any account that you believe may have been compromised or otherwise made vulnerable by the attack.
- Report any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations via their Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information can be found by clicking here (link is external).
- Brokers should report any fraudulent activity to their state or local REALTOR® association so that the associations can send out alerts or take other appropriate action, including contacting NAR.
This advice is not all-inclusive, and real estate practitioners should work with Information Technology and cybersecurity professionals to ensure that their e-mail accounts, online systems, and business practices are as secure and up-to-date as possible.
Be aware that these emails are extremely convincing. Many sophisticated parties have been duped. No one should assume that they are “too savvy” to recognize the fraud. In addition, no one should assume that they are “too small a target” to be on these criminals’ radars. This fraud is pervasive, convincing, and constantly evolving.
Do you have regular steps you take to protect yourself from online fraud?