If you are a real estate home buyer or home seller, you need to verify before sending, wiring, or dropping off any money. Your bank account numbers, your social security numbers, your date of birth, before you write it or enter it within an online system, make sure you verify it with the source and double check with your real estate agent.
Recently there was a nice lady wanted to buy a home in Ohio. She had worked all her life to save for a home to call her own. She contacted a local Realtor and they found a home she wanted to buy. The realtor she hired was working for her alone as her "buyers" agent. The other agent, the one who is representing the home seller, obtained wiring instructions and forwarded it to the agent representing this nice lady.
The seller's agent, the one who sent the wiring instructions, their email was hacked. (so important to keep double verification when able concerning email and passwords)
The hacker changed the "wiring instructions" to ensure the payment for the home, more than $23,000.00, the lady's entire life savings, went into their account.
The scammers now have the lady's money and I hope it will get fixed, but it won't be easy or cheap to do so.
Of course, we can all play the blame game. But, those criminals of the world hold the responsibility. However, they don't care, they are criminals.
When in escrow, before, during and after, and you are asked to send money or give up personal information. I'd double verify it. It's sad this has to be the case, but it is your money and sometimes that money turns out to be unrecoverable after it's sent.
After one of our buyers recently closed escrow they received a letter marked urgent. They owed money to a particular company that was not paid during escrow. They sent a check and then a few days later, as I was checking in, they mentioned it. It was a scam I told them, after hearing the story. They were able to cancel the check before it had arrived at its destination, but not without being charged an $18 dollar cancellation fee.
It could have been worse. It could have been the $175.00 check being cashed.
Scammers are smart
They are not going to too high in most of the amounts requested. They don't want you to question. They are going to go just enough to make it sound sensible and for you to pay them.
In a perfect world...
When you are in escrow, it should be a sealed system. After the home records that is a whole other matter. The "new recording" of the home in your name becomes public record. Tons of companies are paying for that information so they can fill your mailbox, email inbox, generate robocalls, and populate your facebook and twitter feed with ads about home repair, home improvement, and home furniture/appliances.
It's not a perfect world and people get hacked. Emails of real estate agents are often targeted by hackers looking to see where they can obtain an easy payment from. If the agent is not on top of it, they may have a mole inside of their email stream and have wiring instructions intercepted, re-written/modified, and sent to the soon to be victim.
Escrow and Title company emails are also at the top of the list criminals would wish to penetrate. Those emails contain a lot of sensitive information and their interception could place a home buyer or home seller at risk.
There is no best way to prevent getting taken advantage of by a scammer. Just verify what you are sending and to whom. Call your trusted real estate advisor before sending them your hard earned money, make sure they really requested it and verify to where it should be sent as per the instruction received.
The same goes for Escrow and other real estate entities within the real estate transaction. Your agent should keep you apprised of how the real estate mechanism works. You should know what to expect to send and approximate amounts.
I'm Connor, don't be scammed, be smart. And agents, escrow officers, and title professionals - enable double verification within your email systems. It's a bit of a pain, but well worth it to keep your clients safe from hackers and wiring instructions being intercepted.