Scam Alert! How email hackers are stealing downpayments & how to defeat them.

Just this morning on Good Morning America, there was a feature story about home buyers being tricked into wiring their downpayment funds to scammers’ accounts, never to be seen again. It’s a scary scenario, and if you’re in the real estate, mortgage, or closing services industries you should study up on how this happens and how to prevent it.

Here’s how it works: Scammers get into the email of a real estate agent, title company, or mortgage broker (usually via a successful phishing attempt) and stealthily monitor their email traffic until they see a discussion of funds to be wired. The scammer then emails wire instructions to the buyer from a similar looking domain name (i.e. instead of Because of their access to previous emails, the timing and details of their email will make it appear entirely legitimate. It’s scary and it’s real, but we can stop it

Two things to do right now

  1. Everyone, but especially those in the business of helping folks buy homes, should make sure their email is protected via some sort of multi-factor authentication that keeps bad actors from being able to log in with just your username and password. You can of course use text or voice messages to your cell phone, but industry professionals should really be using an authenticator app (like we do). You should review your login activity and log out of any devices you don’t recognize (like this for GMail) to ensure anyone monitoring your email gets kicked out.
  2. Industry professionals should share this post with your buyers and on social media. Because you don’t know how secure anyone else’s email is, agents & mortgage professionals should make sure their clients know to forward any emails that didn’t originally include you.

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