Hackers made national news during last month’s elections, with the Wikileaks release of emails related to Hillary Clinton and her staff. But politicians aren’t the only ones affected by such activity.
In fact hackers have hit more close to home recently, targeting those involved in real estate transactions in the Denver metro area.
Channel 7, KMGH-TV News has reported several such instances, warning homebuyers, in particular, to be wary.
In one case, Arvada real estate agent Karen Nichols’ emails were hacked. Using Nichols’ email account and personal information, the hacker tried to convince Nichols’ client to wire his $65,000 down payment for a new home to a different bank account.
“The double whammy for me was – not only were they in my (email) account, but they were communicating to my clients through my account and I didn’t know it,” Nichols told the TV station.
The scam was uncovered when the client became suspicious and asked the hacker questions, such as the name of Nichols’ children. While the hacker responded incorrectly, the imposter still came up with real names of Nichols’ family members.
Another case involved an executive of a title company handling a real estate closing for a Denver property. “The property owner arranged to have the $82,896 proceeds from the sale wired to her personal account,” notes KMGH. “But on the day in February the sale was set to close, the closing agent received an email that appeared to be from the seller, instructing her to change the wire transfer and send it to a different account altogether.”
That email turned out to be from an imposter using a Mail.com address with the same username as the seller’s Comcast.net email address. The money was wired to the wrong account “and quickly transferred to other accounts.”
With thousands of dollars at stake in any transaction, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors is warning agents and buyers alike to be on alert. “Once those funds hit the wire and go through, good luck getting those funds back,” says DMAR spokesperson Anthony Rael.
When wiring money, we advise all homebuyers to accept instructions by voice only. The Federal Trade Commission also advises buyers to:
- Never click on links in emails that direct you to another site to input financial account information. Instead, type in the URL, to ensure you aren’t being misdirected to a fraudulent site.
- Look for URLs that begin with “https” – the “s” indicates that the site is secure.
- Keep computer security software up to date.