Phishing, hacking, wire fraud – these are all ways people attempt to steal from others online. As real estate searches and transactions move increasingly online, the chances of being caught up in a cyber scam have become even greater.
By now most people have heard of the Nigerian prince scams or phishing emails asking for social security or banking information, but many people don’t know that they need to watch out for possible scams when buying or selling their home. Cybercrimes have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and the people perpetrating them focus on situations where a lot of money is changing hands, making real estate transactions an ideal target.
The National Association of Realtors® recently warned its members and consumers about one example, a wiring scam during the closing stage of the home buying and selling process . Hackers will break into the email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals to get details about a real estate transaction. The hacker will then send an email pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent or someone else involved in the closing process and say there has been a last minute change and provide new wiring instructions; the instructions send the closing costs funds directly into the hacker’s bank account.
While it may seem like there are hundreds of ways for a criminal to take advantage of a consumer online, there are just as many ways consumers can protect themselves.
Here are a few tips from the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate cyber scams: