WASHINGTON–Credit unions and their members have another online threat to guard against—having home downpayments stolen.
According to a number of sources, online criminals are increasingly impersonating real estate agents online in order to get buyers to send funds to offshore accounts. As part of the scam hackers penetrate real estate agents’ emails and monitor communications until they see a deal is about to be closed. The scammer than sends the buyers money wiring instructions under the identity of the agent, which routes the payment to offshore accounts.
For those tricked into giving up what can be their life’s savings, there is little recourse. For the scammers the rewards can be enormous, given the average size of downpayments on homes.
The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors have joined to issue a warning about the scams, which have grown since first being reported in early 2015.
The NAR has urged Realtors to use two-step authentication, which confirms identity with both a password and a secondary code sent by text or phone call, to secure email accounts. Real estate agents have also been cautioned not to conduct business over public Wi-Fi and be careful about what links they click on.
Consumers, meanwhile, are being urged to stay in contact with their real estate agent and, if there are any doubts, to call their agent at a verified number—not the number that may appear on an emailed document.
For more information: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/scammers-phish-mortgage-closing-costs