The National Association of REALTORS is raising awareness of increased reports of wire fraud schemes that involve hackers stealing email addresses and sending fraudulent bank wiring instructions to various parties involved in a real estate transaction.
The cyber-criminal scheme takes on many variations, often tricking the unsuspecting user into inputting their information or clicking a link that allows the criminal to steal login, password, or other personal information. The criminal then uses the stolen information to send fraudulent wire instructions disguised to come from a professional you’re working with, including real estate agents, attorneys, lenders or consumers.
If you receive an email with wiring instructions, do not respond. Financial institutions advise that email is not a secure way to send your financial information. Here are a few ways to help protect yourself against wire fraud:
- Never wire funds without personally speaking with the intended recipient of the wire to confirm the routing number and account number.
- Verify that the contact information for the wire transfer recipient is legitimate. Call to verify the request using a phone number that has been independently obtained, not the phone number contained in the email containing the wiring instructions.
- Never send personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and credit card numbers, unless it is through secured/encrypted email or personal delivery to the intended recipient.
- Take steps to secure the system you are using with your email account such as using strong passwords and secure WiFi.
- Act immediately if you suspect that you have been victimized by wire fraud. Contact the Vermont FBI district office at 802-951-6725 or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at bec.ic3.gov
This important notice is not intended to provide legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer if you have any questions.