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Dream Homes, Financial Nightmares

by Rebecca Barr | May 10, 2019 4:17:54 PM

Scammers can turn buying a dream home into a financial
nightmare.

Better Business Bureau is issuing an alert on a scam that
has continued to target Idaho home buyers. The scam is a form of spear phishing
where scammers insert themselves into a real estate transaction and can steal
tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here’s how it works:

First, scammers hack the email accounts of the people or
companies involved in a real estate transaction, including the buyer and
seller, real estate agent, or title company. They then monitor communications
to gather specific information about the transaction.

Near the closing date, the scammer will send an email either
from a hacked account or from an email account they create with a very similar
address. That email will inform the target of the scam that the instructions
for wiring funds has changed. The new account the money is now supposed to go
to is a fraudulent one, controlled by the scammer. The email looks legitimate
since it may come from an actual email account involved in the transaction and
may contain specific information about the transaction that only the parties
involved should know.

The most important tip for buyers and sellers is to not rely
on email or texting as a secure form of communication when discussing
transaction details. All details of a wire transfer should be confirmed
verbally with the real estate agent or title company, remembering not to use
contact information in the same email saying wiring instructions have changed.
Always verify the changes with someone you have been dealing with.

Businesses involved in real estate transactions should make
sure their cybersecurity practices are up to date. This includes both
technological defenses as well as creating a culture of strong cybersecurity
habits in the office. Real estate agents and title companies can also help
educate consumers by letting them know the ways they will contact them with
important instructions like where to wire funds.

Idaho’s hot real estate market has presented great
opportunities for consumers and businesses alike. But the quick pace of
transactions and eagerness to close after a long search for a home can create
the urgency and excitement that scammers can take advantage of.

“Unfortunately, email and Internet scams are more and more
prevalent and pose a growing threat to the real estate industry,” said Idaho Realtors
CEO David Hensley. “If you receive a suspicious email or text during your home
purchase or sale, the Idaho Realtors encourage you to reach out and call your realtor
to make sure it is not fraudulent.”

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