“Did you mean to send an email trying to sell me prescription medications from a Canadian pharmacy at a discounted rate? No? Well, I think your Yahoo account might have been hacked.”
Hearing a statement like that is certainly enough to elicit a groan and a sharp pang of discomfort. It may seem obvious to say, but dealing with a hacked email account can quickly produce a spiral of time-wasting inefficiency.
Though much less invasive and traumatic than a violent crime or physical altercation, a cyber-attack is not without its irritations. A couple hours lost managing the turmoil of a hacked email account is a best case scenario; a half year or more spent dealing with identity theft or fraud is much, much worse.
This is why I found it particularly alarming to learn that hackers are targeting Realtors’ email accounts. These criminals are using the hijacked accounts to email buyers and sellers in the middle of a real estate transaction, with the urgent message that the instructions for wiring the funds required at closing have changed.
By noting the urgency of the situation and explaining that the deal could fall through unless their instructions are followed, these cyber-criminals have been able to convince many victims to wire money to them. This false sense of urgency created by the hackers has been one of their keys to success with this scam.
Unfortunately, the buyers and sellers who have gotten duped in this situation have little recourse. The money is simply gone, vanished into cyberspace, deleted, kaput! This is why it’s so important to raise awareness about this scam, which is known as phishing.
Even if an email comes through from a trusted real estate professional, if it’s regarding the wiring of money or closing funds, the best idea is to ignore the email, pick up the phone and make a call. Most Realtors and professionals from real-estate related businesses understand that email is not a secure method of communication, so they will avoid using it for dealing with sensitive information, especially when it comes to finances.
An important point to remember is that any money transfer should be verified with both the mortgage broker and the closing attorney during the course of an actual, real-life conversation by phone. It may seem like an arduous and overly cautious approach, but the flip side of having to deal with the pain and suffering from losing closing funds is something that nobody wants to face.
One of the takeaways for consumers is to always pick up the phone and call if there is a question. The best thing about these tiny computers we carry around in our pockets is that they still make phone calls.
For Realtors and other real estate professionals, one of the biggest points to remember is to change email passwords on a regular basis. It’s also important to make sure that passwords are unique from website to website, and that they contain special characters, capital letters and numbers.
For a consultation about how to protect your interests in a real estate transaction, contact me at the number below.
Patrick Stoy (NMLS Numbers 39527 and 39166) has 16 years of mortgage lending experience. Stoy is CEO of Wilmington-based Market Consulting Mortgage, which he started in 2005 with a mission to build lifelong customer relationships by providing real value. To learn more about Marketing Consulting Mortgage, visit www.macmtg.com. Patrick can be reached at [email protected] or (910) 509-7105.