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Hacking Threat Menaces Real Estate Firms

Large transactions make real estate companies an attractive target.

(Boonton, NJ, February 23, 2017) — Foreign hackers are targeting home buyers in a down-payment scam that can exact a significant toll.

And real estate firms, with their often-porous cybersecurity practices, enable the scam.

Here’s how it works: A hacker breaks into the email of a real estate brokerage or a title company, then patiently watches the back and forth with a buyer until the moment the buyer is about to make a down payment.

Then the scammer sends a legit-looking email with instructions for wiring the down payment to the seller, perhaps explaining that there has been a last-minute change.

The logos and email signature seem similar to those the buyer has grown accustomed to seeing, except the bank account number is for an offshore institution and the phone number is tweaked by a few digits.

The scam has become common enough that the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors warned consumers and agents about the threat.

Details on the scam and the need to tighten cybersecurity policies appear in the February issue of Real Estate Broker’s Insider newsletter.

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