Efforts to steal proceeds from real estate transactions are persistent and ongoing. The dollars lost due to a scam end up being your responsibility as the closing agent. Settlement agents are the moving target for these active, phishing fraud attacks.
The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors® have warned both home buyers and real estate professionals of the danger of phishing attacks. These attacks give scammers access to email accounts. Once the cybercriminal figures out the closing date and other information about the closing, they send an email to either party posing as a real estate professional or title agent. The email says there has been a change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire the closing costs to a different account—their account.
- Never email financial information. It’s not secure.
- If you are providing financial information via the web, make sure the site is secure. You can tell which sites are secure, because the URL will begin with https—the ‘s’ standing for ‘secure’.
- Hyperlinks in emails can lead you to illegitimate sites that mimic the real thing. Rather than follow links in emails, type the URL into the navigation bar yourself.
- Be very selective with what attachments you open in your email—regardless of who the sender appears to be. They may contain malware that will open your computer to further attack.
- Always invest in antivirus software, and be sure to keep it up to date.
- Before wiring any funds, if wire instructions are changed and/or payment method is changed after the initial wiring instructions are released, you must be alert and use extreme caution prior to disbursing any and all funds from closing. Ask questions and call the payoff lender directly to verify the authenticity of wire instructions.
- Call the Seller to the settlement transaction directly to verify the authenticity of any changes to the transfer of sale proceeds before you make a change. Make certain to identify the seller with whom you are speaking. Do not rely on a point blank email.
Protect yourself, your company and most importantly the parties to your real estate settlement. Scammers are waiting around for opportunity. Don’t let them take your MONEY!
Lakeside Title Company: Your Partner for Maryland Title Insurance & Closing Services
Lakeside Title Company is a Columbia, Maryland title insurance company that serves builders, lenders, and realtors in Maryland, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, and Southern Pennsylvania. We close over 4,000 transactions a year from 14 different locations. Visit our homepage today to learn more about our services and to get in touch.
If you have a question for an attorney, please contact Lakeside Title Company’s affiliated Law Firm, Deardorff, Rath & Pichon, LLC.