The BBB made a recent announcement concerning an online scam affecting home buyers across the country, and here is what is happening -
Scammers are hacking the email accounts of people or companies involved in a real estate transaction, including the buyer, seller, real estate agent or title company. They monitor communications to gather specific information about the transaction. This is what is known as 'spear phishing'. Spear phishing is an attempt to steal sensitive information such as account credentials or financial information for malicious reasons.
Near the closing date, the scammer will send an email either from a hacked account, or from an email account they create with a very similar address. That email will inform the victim that the instructions for wiring funds has changed. They will then attempt to redirect the funds, asking theat they be wired directly in to a fraudulent account, controlled by the scammer.
The email you receive looks legitimate since it may come from a hacked account that is involved in the transaction. Because they have been closely monitoring, the email may contain specific details that only the parties of the transaction would know. Here are few tips:
1) First and foremost: BE SUSPICIOUS OF CHANGES! Title companies do not change their wiring information in the middle of a transaction. This is a huge red flag!
2) Pay close attention to the email address. The trick is that they will use an email address or a domain address that is extremely similar to the original, such as '.co' instead of '.com', or removing one letter from the sender's name.
3) Do not use your contact information in the same email that stated wiring instructions have changed.
<All details of a wire transfer should be confirmed verbally with the title company. Do not rely on email or texting as a secure form of communication when discussing your personal, financial details>
Scammers are getting creative, so we have to stay on our toes. If something looks suspicious, verify it. The quick pace of transactions and excitement to close create an environment that the scammers can take advantage of. Let's stop scammers in their tracks and show them who's smarter. Nope, WE'RE NOT FALLING FOR IT!