Wire fraud attempts increase amid COVID-19 outbreak

Atlanta | COVID-19 | Office News | Real Estate | Title Insurance | What's going on! |

Wire fraud has been a growing problem in the real estate industry for years now.  According to the FBI, companies have lost $26 billion dollars since 2016 to email wire fraud.  Even real estate mogul, Barbara Corcoran (*1), nearly lost approximately $400,000 when she erroneously wired money into a false bank account in Asia earlier this year.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, our title insurance underwriters have seen an increase in wire fraud attempts.  Attorneys, real estate agents and their buyers are the main targets for these scams.

According to Stewart Title Guaranty (*2), “In one recent case, buyers were told ‘Due to Covid-19 our process has changed so you must wire funds today to this account.'”

The fraudsters tend to take advantage of people in situations when they’re the most vulnerable, like what we’re currently experiencing.  Because of that, all parties need to pay even closer attention to the instructions they receive and are asked to follow during each transaction.

In compliance with our industry’s Best Practices, MMH has put into place numerous processes, procedures and systems to protect everyone’s personal information.

For several years, MMH has had numerous processes, procedures and systems in place to protect everyone’s personal information.

  • We use ZixCorp to send secure emails.  Emails that contain non-public personal information are automatically encrypted when emailed from our system.  Recipients can then use ZixCorp to securely respond to our emails and send attachments.
  • Buyer and Seller Information Sheets as well as other documents can be submitted via our secure portal, eliminating the worry of transmitting personal information via unsecure means.
  • Our industry has been targeted by cyber criminals who hack unsecure email accounts. The criminals then pose as legitimate parties to the transaction in an attempt to divert closing funds for their own means.

In response to this threat, please note that MMH will never send wiring instructions via email. We will only send a link to our secure portal where the buyer or seller can login and safely download our wiring instructions. We advise anyone sending money to our firm to call us directly to confirm the wiring instructions before initiating the wire at the bank.

Lastly, our firm maintains shredding bins at all of our office locations to securely dispose of documents with non-public personal information.  The documents in these bins are routinely emptied and shredded by a vetted third-party document destruction service provider.

Additional ways to protect yourself and your clients would be to:

  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Inform your clients from the very beginning of this threat, so they can keep a watchful eye for suspicious emails or texts.
  • Call us with any questions or concerns.  We’re here to help!

Resources:

*1 Barbara Corcoran phishing scam

*2 Stewart Bulletin – 4/16/20

*For informational purposes only.  Not to be relied upon as legal advice.  Nothing in this blog should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship.  MMH is not responsible for, does not endorse or accept liability for any externally linked site or its content.  MMH does not give any representation regarding the safety, reliability or accuracy of the content or materials contained on any external website.