Buying a new home is meant to be an exciting time. In the past several years, especially with today’s sizzling housing market, real estate transactions have increasingly involved sending funds via wire transfer. In typical real estate transactions, buyers and mortgage lenders wire purchase funds to an escrow agent.
The very nature of real estate transactions — large amounts of money transferring between parties — makes them a prime target for criminals. Unfortunately, criminals are increasingly targeting the real estate industry with compromised emails containing fraudulent wire instructions turning any initial excitement into gloom.
A hacker’s playbook
Once hackers gain access to an email account of a real estate agent, a title company, or a consumer, they will monitor messages to find someone in the process of buying a home. If they can hack into a party’s email, they can monitor the communications and swoop in with their own “spoofed” email. The spoofed email address is often indistinguishable from the correct version, and the hacker and will duplicate email signatures, fonts, and other formatting specifications making it appear to look authentic. The hacker will then send fraudulent wire transfer instructions to unsuspecting buyers to steal closing costs or down payments.