A Federal Court upheld a jury’s finding that a real estate agent and broker were 85% responsible for a wire fraud that cost their client $196,622.67 (Bain v. Platinum Realty, LLC, Dist. Court, D. Kansas 2018).
Jerry Bain was working with a real estate agent to purchase a property. To fund the purchase, Bain was instructed to wire $196,622.67 to the title company. Unbeknownst to the parties involved, a criminal was intercepting e-mails exchanged between the title company, agent, and Bain. Bain had actually been sent hacked wiring instructions, which instructed him to wire funds straight to the criminal’s account. Once the funds were sent they could not be recovered and so Bain sued the agent, broker and others.
In finding the real estate agent and broker liable, the court emphasized several points which can provide valuable lessons to all agents:
- The real estate agent was serving as the middleman between the settlement agent and her client. Serving in this role made her responsible for the delivery of accurate instructions to her client.
- Real Estate agents should not be involved with wire transfer instructions! Buyer’s and Seller’s should communicate directly with the title company.
- The agent did not alert the other parties to the transaction when she learned her e-mail account had been compromised.
- If your email account is compromised, you have an obligation to notify the parties involved. Make sure you notify clients, title companies and lenders promptly.
Wire fraud criminals continue to improve their approach to tricking buyers and other parties into wiring funds to them by a variety of schemes. These include phishing emails, compromised email accounts, and impersonating title companies and agents on email, text and by phone. Real Estate agents must implement best practices regarding their clients wiring funds. Learn more about how to protect yourself at the following links: