All the news about hackers and our personal data being stolen is frightening. In some ways I don’t know what to do. I mean how many times can I change my passwords and still keep up with all of them. And after multiple breaches I have so much credit monitoring on my accounts I think I’m covered, but is it enough?
Hackers are hired to find out all they can about your life, especially major life events. They search for events where there is a possibility to steal money from you in some way. They create email addresses that look familiar with just a slight change, like rudytitle.com vs. rudytitIe.com. Hard to see the difference? One has a lowercase L in title and one an uppercase i but at a quick glance they look the same. So we’re easily lulled into thinking we’re receiving emails from a familiar company or person.
And now the scammers have figured out yet one more way to get people’s money through the real estate process. One of the biggest events in most people’s lives is buying a home. And it’s an event where large amounts of money are transferred. So hacker’s are very interested in them and in their eerie way are able to uncover when these events are happening.
The Silent Scream
So what do they do? A few days before a house is going to close the hackers send an email with wiring instructions for the downpayment and closings costs or the net due at closing from the buyer. Buyer’s are expecting the correspondence and in fact are rather eager to know how much is needed at closing and what they need to do. Excited about buying a new house they follow the instructions as sent. Then when they arrive at the closings they are stunned to hear that the title company did not receive the funds. Did your jaw just drop to the table?
The Ripple Effect
This amount can be thousands of dollars and into the hundred of thousands if it’s a multi-million dollar home. And unfortunately once the money is gone it is very hard or impossible to recover it. And the buyer is still under contract to buy the house and can be sued if they do not close. There is also a ripple effect if they don’t close, as the seller may be under contract for another property and cannot close without the sale of their house, and so forth. There could be a lot of unhappy people with some very happy lawyers.
You Have Been Warned
So how do you avoid this? It’s actually pretty simple. When you receive wiring instructions, call the title company to confirm the instructions. But do not call the number on the email but call the published number. Take the time to look it up or get the number from your agent. It’s an extra step but a simple one to protect you from what could be one of the biggest disasters of your life.
Please let anyone you know who is buying a house that this is happening. The only way to stop the hackers is to be forewarned and to take that extra step. And as always please connect me if you know anyone who is interested in buying, selling or investing in a home.