We've all seen it on the news. The horrible stories of sweet folks losing their life savings from phishing emails. Fraudsters have infiltrated the real estate world unfortunately. Like many other industries, ours is not immune to falling victim to the seemingly legit looking emails, which unlocks troves of information for the scammers to use. Often without us even knowing.
A few weeks ago, as our team headed to Wentworth By The Sea for our Portside Circle of Excellence dinner, an email went out to a broker who was on the buy side of one of our listing sales as well as to myself (Diane Maines) and Bridget King. It immediately set of alarms because it was pertaining to a listing that had closed just hours before. It was wire instructions for the proceeds of the closing to be sent to a particular account. And even more scary, it appeared to come from our team email address! A flurry of panicked messages went out through our team as we traveled in separate vehicles to New Hampshire. At first, it was not clear if it was real (after all, we were all driving and reading at stoplights), but within moments we realized that either we were hacked, or someone was spoofing our email. In this case the scammer was targeting the brokers in hopes we would forward it to the title company, which would make it seem even more credible. Luckily, their timing was off and their english was... well... not good.
Upon arriving at the Wentworth we convened in one room to systematically change everyone's passwords and feverishly scan for other fraudulent activity within our accounts. We found no evidence that anyone had hacked us, or that the email had actually come from our account. Scam artists use a technique called spoofing which makes an email appear like it is coming from an account, but it is really not. We assume that is what happened. However, someone had clearly hacked either us, our seller, the buyer, the buyer broker, or even the title company or lender. They knew there was a closing happening for this property, and they knew the brokers involved. While their english is terrible, these are not unsophisticated operations.
You must be vigilant when buying and selling your home. Never, I repeat NEVER, wire funds or give account information for your closing without calling either your broker, the title company, or lender, to confirm the email actually came from them. Even if it looks like it came from them, or us in this case.
Here is what real estate phishing can look like. Don't fall for it! I swear, if these folks ever string a sentence together properly, we will all be in a lot of trouble.