Savvy scammers divert money from real estate closings
Friday, April 24, 2015
Real estate attorneys in North Carolina are reporting a new scam. Crooks hack into the email account of someone who is involved in a real estate closing, and impersonate that person in communications with the law firm. They present themselves as the legitimate seller of the property, who lives out-of-state. In a phone call or email, they ask that their money from the sale be wired directly to their bank account.
In some cases the crooks are able to defeat a two-step confirmation process, designed to protect against such scams, by using information harvested from the email account. There have been multiple reports of this fraud being attempted, and it has been pulled off successfully. In one instance the scammers made off with $200,000.
To combat this fraud, we recommend that attorneys and others who handle real estate transactions:
Ignore telephone numbers provided by email, and instead contact sellers via the telephone number provided by the sellers earlier in the negotiations.
Review their procedures for wiring funds to make sure they can detect and prevent this type of fraud.
Report possible scams to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov