Wiring fraud has become a critical and dangerous threat to consumers. This is an even bigger threat when it comes to real estate and wiring instructions. It is important that we all become aware of the warning signs of wiring fraud, email fraud and other types of identity theft and electronic safety. With the ever present threat, we must all become and remain vigilant to protect ourselves.
Most form of wiring fraud begin with a hacked or spoofed email account. Criminals will generally hack an email address and begin monitoring it for activity. Once they see activity relating to a real estate closing or other financial matter, they will attempt to send wiring instructions or other directions to the consumer with a stolen letterhead or logo, giving the directive the air of legitimacy.
We employ several countermeasures to try to prevent fraud. We have industry standard email encryption, anti-spoofing measures, identity verification and physical token two factor authorization. This gives our email system an enormous deterrent effect to would-be criminals since they would need to work that much harder to break into our system, when there are much easier targets out there like consumer grade free email services (aol, sbcglobal, yahoo, etc). Additionally, we will NEVER email wiring instructions. This is too great a risk. All of our emails contain an admonishment that we will not email wiring instructions and that if you received wiring instructions, DO NOT send money and to immediately contact our office or any attorney.
Finally, we include documentation explaining our firm’s policy on wiring instructions and some warning signs of fraud with our engagement letters. It is our mission to make sure our clients are counseled on this danger.
However, remaining vigilant also includes the consumer. You too must remain vigilant and wary of the risk. Look for clues of fake email accounts, spoofed accounts, hacked accounts or other data breaches. This can include emails or letters written in poor English, including grammar errors, spelling errors or unusual language. Make sure to frequently change your passwords. Do not use the same password for all accounts. Make sure to have long passwords that are difficult to guess. Enable two factor authorization so that even if a criminal has your password, they need your cell phone to access your email. If you have a bad feeling about an email, TRUST your instincts and call our office.
This goes for all parties involved in all matters. The only way we can stop or limit this fraud is to make the job as difficult as possible for those that might try to defraud.