This article by Calcagni’s Joel Grossman, President of the New Haven Middlesex Association of Realtors, originally appeared in the New Haven Register on 30 December 2018.
Cybercrimes such as phishing, hacking and wire fraud have become increasingly sophisticated and the people perpetrating them focus on situations where a lot of money is changing hands, making real estate transactions an ideal target.
The National Association of Realtors warns about one example, a wiring scam during the closing stage of the home buying and selling process.
Hackers will break into the email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals to get details about a real estate transaction. The hacker will then send an email pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent or someone else involved in the closing process and say there has been a last minute change and provide new wiring instructions; the instructions send the closing costs funds directly into the hacker’s bank account.
Here are a few tips the National Association of Realtors recommends to help avoid real estate scams:
Do not send sensitive information via email
This includes banking information, social security numbers or anything that could compromise your identity. If you must send personal or sensitive information via email, use encrypted email.
Do not click on unverified email
If you do not recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the email. Beware of any attachments or downloadable files from unknown email addresses; they can contain viruses or provide a way for a hacker to access your computer.
Do not use unsecured Wi-Fi
Using an open connection with free Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to hackers. Only access sensitive information on your home computer or on a secured network.
Do not wire funds without verifying
If you receive instructions to wire money, verify the instructions by contacting someone at a phone number you know is valid, not a phone number given in the email in question.
If you suspect fraud, tell someone. Contact all parties connected to the transaction and report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission.