Real Estate Scam Alert: Business E-mail Compromise

A recent internet scam is making home-buying even more stressful for unsuspecting purchasers.

In today’s technologically driven world, much of the communication regarding the transfer of real estate takes place via electronic communication. Criminal enterprises have taken notice of this convenience and exposed it as a vulnerability by devising a way to take large sums of money from unsuspecting victims using a scam called “Business E-mail Compromise.”

The scam essentially works like this:

  • A criminal enterprise hacks into the e-mail system of a participant to a real estate transaction and acts in the role of a title company or a real estate agent.
  • The criminal monitors the title company or real estate agent’s e-mail, looking for upcoming real estate closings.
  • When the criminal sees a closing is on the horizon, a fraudulent e-mail is sent to the home buyer that mimics an e-mail from the title company’s email account. It states that there has been a change to the payment method and requests the home buyer send the money via a wire-transfer.
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Remember: Never will a title insurance company, nor real estate agency, ask to have money transferred via wire in an e-mail. 

If you receive a notification of that nature, report it immediately to your real estate agent, the title insurance company, your financial institution and the local FBI branch. Once the money is transferred, it is extremely difficult to recover and in many instances is gone for good.

This scam can be carried out against any entity or person who does business via wire transfers. The best way to protect yourself is to always call the person requesting the wire transfer to confirm the instructions before you send any money.

Lauren Dentone is a partner at Gawthrop Greenwood, PC, where her practice includes Criminal Defense and Litigation. Lauren can be reached at [email protected] or 610-696-8225.

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