Can Your Escrow Get Hacked? Ask Lake Tahoe Real Estate Agents About Wire Fraud

Posted by GrangerGroup on January 31st, 2017

Since 2009, the threat of cyber crime has risen 66% every single year according to The 2015 Global State of Information Security® Survey. Cyber crime continues to rise as the practice of paying online and electronically grows. In real estate, cyber crime is as alive as ever, and Lake Tahoe real estate is not immune.

The largest cyber threat that we see facing the real estate agency is the wire fraud that buyers have been dealing with when trying to wire their funds directly to their escrow accounts. The fraud is perpetrated when an innocent home owner receives an email from their real estate agent or from their escrow loan officer. The email sets forth the wire transfer information and instructs the new home owner on the steps needed to wire the money.

The fraud takes place through the email when hackers are able to hack into the email and change the information and instructions. They provide new data that lists the hacker's account as the account to wire the money into and the homeowner obliges.

Fraud can happen in any real estate practice and every agency should instruct their agents to inform clients about the potential of wire fraud, particularly during the escrow process. Although it is difficult to discern whether or not an email has been hacked, it is possible to follow several safeguards to ensure that the buyer's funds end up in the right place: their escrow account with their lender.

Remember to follow these rules to prevent wire fraud:

  • Ask for your escrow officer's number. Never trust that the number given to you in your wire transfer email is correct. Call that number when it is time to wire your funds. When you have your escrow officer's number, you can be sure that you will be speaking with your escrow officer and not a hacker or hacker's computer system.
  • Access funds only over secure internet and secure websites. When making a wire transfer, you should always use a secure Internet IP address. Do not connect to public Wi-Fi to make your wire transfer, and do not use unsecured Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi that is not password protected). If you do not have a password on your own home Wi-Fi, add a password before you make the wire transfer to ensure that your connection is private and secure. Never trust any website that does not start with HTTPS (that ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’).
  • Do not accept wire instructions that are not confirmed via phone. If you receive instructions to proceed with a wire transfer, make sure that you immediately call your escrow officer for additional details. Do not accept wire instructions that you have not confirmed via phone with your escrow officer, because these instructions may have been tampered with by a hacker.

By following these steps, Lake Tahoe real estate agents and their clients ensure that funds are going directly to the bank, and not into a hacker's hands.

About the Company:

Granger Group is a leading real estate company in Northern California, driven by honesty, integrity & professionalism. Linda Granger has a well-earned reputation for top-tier real estate service in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area. Granger Group’s team believes in delivering the highest-quality care to buyers and sellers throughout Lake Tahoe, from Truckee, CA to Incline Village, NV and beyond.

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