Homebuyers and sellers are at risk of being targeted by criminals, who hack your email accounts as well as your real estate service providers’ accounts (e.g., title agents, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, and lawyers), in order to trick you into wiring money to fraudulent bank accounts. These hackers make themselves appear authentic by including personal details they have obtained by hacking into their targets’ email and social media accounts.
Here’s What You Need To Know
IN THE UNITED STATES, REDFIN WILL NEVER EMAIL YOU WIRE INSTRUCTIONS, ASK YOU TO CHANGE WIRE INSTRUCTIONS, OR ASK FOR YOUR BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION VIA EMAIL. If you receive an email or call allegedly from Redfin which provides wiring instructions, it is fraudulent. Do not respond to it and please call your Redfin agent immediately.
IN CANADA, only your Redfin Agent will email you wiring instructions, but WILL NEVER ASK FOR YOUR BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION VIA EMAIL. Please follow the tips below whenever you are wiring funds.
Here’s What You Need To Do
Verify all sensitive requests over the phone or in person, never by email, even if they appear to come from someone known to you, especially a Redfin employee. Call them using a previously known phone number. Don’t use phone numbers or links from an email.
Ask specific questions of the other party that only they would know like what is their manager’s name or the last time you met them in person. After you wire money, call the title company within 4 to 8 hours to confirm they received it at the right account.
Treat New Requests Seriously
Treat any requests to change existing wiring instructions with extreme suspicion. Hover your mouse over email addresses to ensure the sender name and email address matches the hyperlinked address, and that all email addresses (including the @[ABC].com domain name) are exact. Check for poor grammar and punctuation in the body of the email. These are all signs of a potentially fraudulent email. Below, scroll through some examples of how criminals fake emails to steal your money.
What To Do If You Are Targeted
Call Your Bank
Call your bank and ask them to issue a recall notice for your wire. Call within 24 hours for the best chance of recovering your money.
In the United States, report the crime to www.ic3.gov as well as your local police and regional FBI office (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices). IF YOU ALREADY WIRED FUNDS TO A FRAUDULENT ACCOUNT, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. GET THE FBI AND BANKS INVOLVED IMMEDIATELY.
In Canada, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or online at https://www.services.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/, as well as your local police. IF YOU ALREADY WIRED FUNDS TO A FRAUDULENT ACCOUNT, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. GET THE FEDERAL AUTHORITIES AND BANKS INVOLVED IMMEDIATELY.
Fake Email Examples
Here is an example of a legitimate email from the lender to the customer. However, a hacker has obtained access to this email account and is able to read it.
Now that the hacker knows the emails and names of those involved in this transaction, they impersonate the lawyer to get information from the lender. Notice that the email has the same name but is from “Gmail”, not “legalaide.com”. The hacker could also impersonate the buyer using this same strategy.
The lender doesn’t notice and sends the hacker the closing date and wiring amount. With this information, the hacker can make their emails seem more authentic.
The hacker then impersonates the lender and asks the customer to wire them money to their personal/fraudulent account. Notice that their email is from “Gmail”, not “lenderusa.com”. Also, take note that they use poor grammar and a different signature than what Michelle was using in her other emails.