The latest FBI reports show that criminals are getting better at stealing money through fake emails and scams:
· An increase from 20,000 incidents of wire fraud through Business Email Compromise (which includes all types of email phishing) for 3 billion in 2015 to 40,000 reported incidents for 5.3 billion in 2016.
The FBI also reports that international criminal organizations now employ linguists, attorneys, real estate professionals, programmers, IT specialists, social media experts and anyone else needed to perfect their frauds.
Fraudulent emails with good grammar and professional looking email signature graphics are now common. Non-email methods may include communicating via phone, text messaging, and chat programs or applications. Fraudulent texts from the criminals pretending to be the REALTOR® or other parties to the transaction are now used.
In a recent example, fake closer sent fake wire instructions to fake agent. Fake agent then sent a fake text to the homebuyer saying she had just received the wiring instructions from the title company and would be forwarding the wire instructions to the buyer shortly. Fake agent then forwarded the fake title company email to the homebuyer requesting down payment funds be sent (to the criminal’s bank account) before the day of closing. All of the fake emails and fake texts were well written and time stamped to seem like they were real.
Criminals are even calling the buyer pretending to be one or more of the parties to the transaction.
Preventing wire fraud
• The agent, title company and lender should talk to the buyer about how money is wire transferred – not just rely on written wire fraud warnings. The buyer must understand that they should never rely on emailed wire instructions without first calling a verified phone number.
• Cashier’s checks are a great option
• All users involved in the real estate transaction, including agents, should implement two-factor authentication, use long pass phrases as their password and should change their password often (and immediately change their password if they see evidence of phishing or fake emails involved in one of their transactions)
On a side note, criminals can even trick Alexa and Siri into stealing money for them. See: “Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. https://nyti.ms/2G2RrgW.”