With Halloween right around the corner, we’d like to bring you a spooky tale of an attempted wire transfer scam. We recently received a call from a buyer’s lender who was looking to confirm wiring instructions that they had received from a mortgage broker. A quick conversation revealed that the instructions included an incorrect account number, an incorrect account name, and incorrect contact information for the firm. It’s a good thing they called to verify the instructions! It turns out that the email was not sent by the mortgage broker after all, but that it was sent from their account by a hacker.
How does this scam typically happen? Hackers seek to compromise the email accounts of parties to a pending real estate transaction – agents, lenders, attorneys, or others. They will intercept the communication by which wiring instructions are sent, and prevent it from being received. They will then doctor the wiring instructions to provide their own account number (which will often be an overseas account, or an account that is immediately re-routed to an overseas account), and forward the doctored instructions to the original recipient. The new wiring instructions will appear to be authentic: they will contain the same branding, logos, and format that the recipient is accustomed to. If the instructions are not questioned or verified, the wire goes through and the money is long gone. How can you protect yourself from this scam?
If you are the party sending money:
- Make sure the instructions were sent to you from a reliable source using a secure protocol (most reputable companies (Berlin Patten Ebling included) only send their wire instructions using a secure protocol (encrypted email communication or service, password protected file, etc.).
- Never allow a third party to send you wire instructions. Insist that they come directly from the company to whom you plan to wire your money.
- Call the account holder to verbally verify your receipt of their wire instructions and also verify the accuracy of the account number.
If you are sending your wiring instructions as the party to receive the money:
- Only send instructions over a secured protocol and by advising recipients to only rely on wiring instructions sent over that secured protocol.
- Require the recipient to verbally confirmthe accuracy of all wiring instructions that are received.
- Ensure that your I.T. infrastructure and security are up-to-date and robust. If a hacker is not able to compromise your account, they’ll never catch wind of an opportunity to scam you and your clients in the first place. A good place to beef up security is to try avoid the use of public domain email accounts (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) that are particularly prone to hackers’ attacks.
- And if all else fails, the use of a good old fashioned facsimile machine is always an option.
With a little bit of caution you can be sure that you’ll avoid this scam, and protect yourself and your clients from any unwanted Halloween tricks.
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Dan Guarnieri email@example.com
This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.
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