Yes, you could. According to the FBI’s 2018 Internet Crime Report, Americans lost roughly $150,000,000 in real estate scams. One of the most popular is real estate wire fraud, and it doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s easy to get taken in. Read on to learn the things you can do to protect yourself.
How Does Real Estate Wire Fraud Start?
Let’s say you’re a cybercriminal and you want to find out who is in the process of buying or selling a home. How difficult would it be? You could look on the MLS, Zillow, Trulia, and any other website that publishes things like listings for Davie homes for sale.
Since you’re a great hacker, you can discover who is involved in the transaction. Then, you figure out how to hack into the email account of one of those people. Real estate transactions have a lot of potential for hackers because there are several people involved. Besides the seller and buyer, there are attorneys, title companies, mortgage lenders, and two different real estate agents.
Once you can hack into those email accounts, you can wait until the time is right. Typically, hackers will stay undetected while they monitor the email exchanges about the closing for the house. When the closing is about to happen, the cybercriminal jumps into action.
At just the right moment, the hacker will send an email to the homebuyer, giving them the account number where they should wire their closing costs. If you’ve bought homes before, you know that amount could be $60,000, $100,000, $200,000 or more. Now, assume you’re the buyer.
You see an email from your mortgage lender, attorney, or real estate agent. It looks like the others you’ve received. The logo is right. The signature is right. It looks like business as usual. So, you naturally want to do everything possible to make the closing work smoothly, so you shoot off a wire transfer as requested. The only problem is that you just gave that money away to a cybercriminal.
And, you’re not alone. These types of scams happen to everyone from first-time homebuyers and experienced professionals.
What Needs to Be Done?
All real estate related professionals need to keep track of their network security. Anything that can be done to improve the security should be done. Using the cloud for email and other networks can help by putting a distinct focus on security. But, as we all know, cybercriminals are getting smarter all the time.
It’s up to all of us, including buyers and sellers, to be vigilant. One person discovered that the email they received was a fraud by noticing that the email addresses on the email giving the instructions were off by one letter. That helped him save the $60,000 that would have been lost.
We should all be looking at our emails to make sure they’re legitimate. There are all kinds of scams that start with a fake email.
In addition, we should be confirming any request involving money, including wire transfer instructions for a home closing, with the sender of the email. It’s sad, but it’s our world today. The best option is to avoid heartache with a simple double check.
Want to Work with Reliable Real Estate Professionals?
If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Davie or the surrounding area, you can trust the members of the Teri Arbogast Team. Our clients tell the story. We’re educated, experienced and can give you the service you deserve to make sure your real estate transaction goes smoothly. Call us at 954-242-8030 or send us an email. We’re looking forward to serving you.