Crooks are targeting real estate agents and companies with a scam aimed at potential home buyers. North Carolina consumers have reported losing tens of thousands of dollars in this type of fraud.
The scammers hack into real estate agents’ email accounts and harvest information about deals that are in the making. When they see that a closing date has been set for a sale they contact the prospective buyers by email, pretending to be the real estate agent. In the email, they explain that a last minute change has been made and the buyer’s closing costs need to be wired to a different account than the one stated previously.
In some cases the hackers learn of the upcoming transaction by accessing the buyer’s email account or other means, but the result is the same: huge financial losses for the would-be buyer, and a fat payday for the crook. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about this scam.
If you are working with a realtor on a purchase, remember:
Never send account information by email – it isn’t secure.
Use a secure connection when entering financial information online. The URL (online address) should begin with “https.” That “s” means you are using a secure connection.
Before moving ahead with a transaction, verify information about the closing in person, or on the phone. Don’t rely on faxed or emailed information.