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The $72,000 question you should be asking your real estate agent


Founding Member
Board Elder
Site Mgr
Midas Supporter
Mar 25, 2010
The $72,000 question you should be asking your real estate agent

By Kari Paul
Published: Dec 27, 2016 11:09 a.m. ET

Be very careful where you wire the deposit on your new home

Homebuyers beware: Putting a down payment on a home could cost you your life savings.

Online criminals have been impersonating real estate agents online and tricking buyers into sending money into offshore accounts. To pull it off, scammers hack into real estate agents emails and then quietly monitor communications, waiting until they are about to close in on a deal. The scammer then sends buyers money wiring instructions under the identity of the agent, which routes the payment to offshore accounts.

“One mistake could cost you your life savings,” said Al Sargent, senior director of product marketing at secure login company OneLogin who is familiar with the process. “And there is little-to-no recourse to be taken. Hackers are attracted to it because it’s a lot of money protected by very little security — this is like banks shipping money around in a convertible instead of an armored vehicle.”

There are more than 80,000 real estate firms in the U.S. and 2 million realtors. Implementing cohesive security policies is difficult in such a fragmented real estate industry, Sargent said, making real estate scams low-hanging fruit for hackers.

The high rewards for these scams make them even more appealing. If the average home sells for $240,000, for example, a 30% down payment would be $72,000. Laws regarding liability for lost funds vary by state, but the Federal Trade Commission has been warning consumers about the issue and is working on national regulation.

Hackers are attracted to deposits for new homes. ‘This is like banks shipping money around in a convertible instead of an armored vehicle.’ — said Al Sargent, senior director of product marketing at secure login company OneLogin

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), the American trade association for the real estate industry, first warned their members of potential scams in May of 2015 and has continued to advise members on protective measures against them since then. The problem is underscored by recent massive hacks, including the breach of more than a billion email accounts at Yahoo, putting realtors at higher risk of being hacked if their information was accessed. Wire scams have become so pervasive that many real estate professionals have begun to include warnings in their email signatures to keep consumers from falling for them.

Realtors should 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, said Jessica Edgerton, an associate counsel with NAR who advises real estate professionals to up their personal security and use safer email practices.

The NAR advises real estate agents to never conduct business over public Wi-Fi and be careful about what links they click on. She has also been encouraging the use of more secure technology like DocuSign, eSign, Digital Ink, and other platforms for sharing and signing documents. “People are just so used to email as a form of communication and document sharing, and really it’s not an ideal or secure form,” she said.

Above all, she said, the most important component is communication — when in doubt, pick up the phone and call your real estate agent. Make sure to use the phone number on their business card as opposed to an email signature, in case the scammer has changed that as well.

As NAR and other agencies continue to spread the word about these scams, Edgerton expects their frequency will go down in the coming years. “Until the technology is able to be perfected and secured, everyone needs to stay aware of the problem and educate each other,” she said. “We are dealing with international crime syndicates who are highly organized and highly professional — if we aren’t careful, they are going to keep the upper hand.”



Platinum Bling
Platinum Bling
Apr 1, 2010
It is very common today as closing attorneys do not want to deal with a check for thousands. Too much check fraud--even counterfeit cashiers checks.

We are also seeing a ton of other email scam wire fraud. For instance, lenders getting VERY authentic looking emails from closing attorneys with "new" wiring instructions to send funds to new account. Closing attorneys getting spoofed emails from sellers and realtors instructing them to wire funds to a different account. It's getting rampant and ripe. I hope all these thieves rot in hell.


Silver Member
Silver Miner
Site Supporter ++
Apr 2, 2010
Today in my area when buying from HUD or any of the other Governmental agencies they require a wire if the settlement price is over 50,000.00. So far so good on it all but I really don't like it.


Midas Member
Midas Member
Midas Supporter
Jan 7, 2011
Half the title agencies want transfers instead of checks now. It actually takes less time to get a cashier's check than it is to wire one transfer. Title agencies will find it more efficient to deal with wires because of the volume of transactions.