It’s no secret – cyber-criminals are hard at work thinking up new
ways to part unsuspecting citizens from both their money and their
Unfortunately, real estate transactions offer them a wealth of
Today, with the popularity of DocuSign and the number of individuals
and businesses communicating via email, buyers and sellers are more at
risk than ever before.
All it takes is a skilled hacker to tap into a real estate brokerage
or title company’s email, and these criminals can gain a wealth of
They can learn your personally identifiable information (PII) – and
they can make off with your money.
Hackers have learned to tap into title company email to divert their
messages and replace them with messages of their own. As a
consequence, those wire instructions telling you where to send your
down payment funds may well be directing your money to an off-shore
account where it will disappear into the hands of criminals forever.
More than one potential home buyer has lost their entire savings to
these crooks – and of course they also lost the opportunity to buy
the home of their dreams.
More than one seller has had their newly enriched bank account emptied
in the same manner.
It’s up to you to be aware of the danger and to be on the lookout
for suspicious activities. It’s also up to you to insist that wiring
instructions for your transaction are given to you in a secure manner.
The best and safest way is in person. Go to your lender or the title
company and get those instructions in writing.
Next best is via a phone call that you initiate to the number posted
on the company website or given to you by your lender or your agent.
As an alternative, the information could come to you via FedEx.
Beware of instructions that reach you via email. Do not follow those
instructions until or unless you’ve verified their authenticity by
speaking with a person you know to be legitimate. Don’t ever call
the number listed at the bottom of the instructions.
Why? If the instructions are bogus, the phone number will be bogus as
A big red flag: Last minute changes. If you receive a message
requesting a partial payment in advance, specifying a change in
deadlines, or giving new wire transfer instructions, ignore it until
you’ve spoken with your agent.
You can’t be too careful in today’s world of cyber-criminals.
That’s why I will never ask for nor transmit sensitive information
via email. It’s simply not smart.