With all of the instances of our personal account information being hacked by local and foreign criminals, we in the real estate industry have not been immune. The criminals have realized that there is a somewhat casual attitude about transferring money, in the real estate business. Most of the time, the amounts are quite large, especially when it comes to the buyer sending the closing attorney an E.F.T. (Electronic Funds Transfer) for the downpayment on a new house purchase. It is believed that large sums of money running in the millions of $'s have been siphoned off by the bad guys, nationally, in recent months.
It very often goes like this: The buyer realises that prior to closing on a house, that they need to send the closing attorney a chunk of money for the downpayment on the house. This will frequently be between 10% and 20% of the purchase price, with the balance being financed through a lender. (Sometimes in a cash deal, it is the full amount, and that's a heck of a lot of money!)
Enter the Sleazeballs: It takes very little effort to find all the houses that are pending and due to close, via the MLS system. With that information comes the selling agent's name and email address. Messrs. Sleazeball and company then impersonate or hack into the agent's email account and get the details of the buyer. It's a simple step then to send the buyer a set of false routing numbers for the transfer of funds. They may even impersonate the closing attorney and send that information as though the attorney is providing it. (Many closing attorneys will not accept checks etc and will only accept E.F.T.'s)
If the agent or closing attorney has already sent the wiring instructions to the buyer, the crooks will send an email stating that because of a change in banking, or security, that the new wiring instructions are the correct ones.
Best way to reduce this risk is for the agent to stay completely out of that particular scenario and to have the buyer call the closing attorney and get the wiring instructions from the horse's mouth (no disrespect there for our attorneys). Of course, as an additional check, the buyer should also check out the attorney's telephone number to verify that it is correct. Unfortunately, in this situation, it is best that the less that is committed to electronic media by way of written communications, the safer and better for the buyer.