|Earlier this year, we communicated to you about wire fraud scams affecting real estate brokers, their agents and their customers. Given the ongoing risks of wire fraud and email hacking, we wanted to reiterate the alert to our franchise network about this scam so that you can take measures to protect your company, independent agents and their clients.
We strongly recommend that real estate agents, their clients and all those in communication about a home sale/purchase transaction (e.g., attorneys, mortgage brokers, title/escrow agents) avoid transmitting sensitive financial or personal information in an email, either directly or through an email attachment. If you need to send or request sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers or wiring instructions, you should only provide the information in person, by telephone, overnight mail or secure fax. As a reminder, the following precautions should be taken related to bank wire transfers:
- ALWAYS PERSONALLY VERIFY wire instructions by calling the party who sent the instructions. Use only phone numbers that you have called before or can otherwise verify. Do not use the number provided in the sender’s email. The hacker may have inserted a fraudulent telephone number in the email. Do not send an email to verify instructions because the sender’s listed email address may be false or a hacker may intercept your email to the sender.
- VERBALLY ASK the party who sent the instructions to confirm the ABA routing number or SWIFT code and the credit account number. Because a hacker may have altered the attachment containing the wire instructions, simply asking the sender whether wire instructions were sent is not sufficient.
- DO NOT AGREE to requests to forward wire instructions to other parties (or their brokers) unless you have personally, verbally confirmed the instructions.
- BE VERY SUSPICIOUS of emails with purportedly updated, revised, or corrected wiring instructions. It is extremely rare that a title agent will change wire instructions during the course of a transaction.
- MAKE SURE you are not sending or requesting sensitive financial information in emails (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers, wiring instructions). Also, make sure to use strong passwords (e.g., 8 characters including both letters and numbers and nothing obvious) and frequently change your passwords.
- DON’T open attachments or click on links from unfamiliar sources because they could contain malware or be a phishing scheme, which once opened could allow a hacker the same access that you have to your computer and accounts.
- CONSIDER updating your company’s disclosures and warnings to customers regarding these scams.
For more information on wire-fraud scams or to report an incident, please refer to the following links: