Very clever scam: “Hackers prey on home buyers, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake”

“Hackers prey on home buyers, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake” at the Washington Post.

This is such a clever scam. My tech-savvy sister and brother-in-law just got hit by it, and nearly fell for it.

The scam generally works like this: Hackers find an opening into a title company’s or realty agent’s email account, track upcoming home purchases scheduled for settlements — the pricier the better — then assume the identity of the title agency person handling the transaction.

Days or sometimes weeks before the settlement, the scammer poses as the title or escrow agent whose email accounts they’ve hijacked and instructs the home buyer to wire the funds needed to close — often hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes far more — to the criminals’ own bank accounts, not the title or escrow company’s legitimate accounts. The criminals then withdraw the money and vanish.

The scammers emailed her fake wiring information for her title company. The fraudulent emails were very convincing, and were spoofed so well that Outlook and Gmail threaded them into the legitimate conversation she was having with her agent. I am in awe of this strategy. The scammers are preying on a juicy population that is – for entirely logical reasons – ready and willing to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars using an uncommon transfer technology to a contact with whom they have no prior transaction history.


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Comments

  • brentybrenty

    Team Member

    @nils_enevoldsen: Holy ••••. It's not something I'd every thought about, but I doubt that real estate folks are super savvy when it comes to digital security. Thank you for sharing this!

  • dancodanco Senior Member Community Moderator

    By now, this scam is quite well known. Can you think of a way to avoid it other than phoning the company to double-check (obviously, sending an email would not work)?

  • @danco Apparently many real estate agents are now directing their clients that they will only give wiring instructions in person.

  • brentybrenty

    Team Member
    edited May 2018

    By now, this scam is quite well known. Can you think of a way to avoid it other than phoning the company to double-check (obviously, sending an email would not work)?

    @danco: Definitely not my area of expertise, but I'd never heard of this. And if there is any success with this scam (it sounds like there is, or there'd be no one running it), then I know I'm not the only one. :dizzy:

  • brentybrenty

    Team Member

    Apparently many real estate agents are now directing their clients that they will only give wiring instructions in person.

    @nils_enevoldsen: That sounds like a very, very good idea. I hope word of this spreads so folks on both sides take the necessary precautions. That's a lot at stake. :angry:

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