In a recent blog post on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Information blog, the FTC warned home buyers of an e-mail and wire transfer phishing scam in which hackers pose as real estate professionals or title companies and request buyers to wire their closing costs to the scammer’s account. The FTC noted that hackers have been breaking into the e-mail accounts of consumers and real estate professionals to harvest information about pending real estate transactions.
The hackers use the information in those e-mails to identify upcoming closing dates and then, posing as the actual real estate professional or title company in the transaction, send an e-mail to the buyer noting there has been a “last minute change” to the wiring instructions and asking the buyer to wire the closing costs to a different account, the scammer’s account. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has also issued a similar warning to its members.
The phishing target pool is not limited to home buyers. Closing attorneys, real estate agents, escrow agents, title companies and agents, and sellers have also been targeted in these scams. These parties and others involved in real estate closings should review and update their system security protocols, as needed, to ensure the information they maintain about specific buyers and specific real estate transactions is adequately protected from hacking intrusions.