When buying a home in Myrtle Beach, there are tons of things you have to pay attention to. This is why it is so vital to have a real estate agent to help you through the transaction. The agent is going help you with the purchase price, the inspections, financing, appraisals, and so much more.
After we have finally finished all negotiations and get that final notice that we are ready for closing, the attorney will send you instructions to make send money to make the purchase. Nowadays attorneys will not take money orders, certified checks or anything of the like for the purchase but instead want the funds to be wired straight to their account.
Because of this, it has caused more and more issues with hackers trying to grab these funds. One of the worst things that could happen is to wire $100,000 for the purchase of a home and have it accidentally go to the wrong account and be lost forever. Unfortunately, we have heard stories of this happening multiple times.
How The Hackers Do It
The typical way the hackers get you to send them the money actually comes through the agents email. What they do is use a phishing scam on the agent to access their account. They normally send us an email with something that appears to be a pre-approval letter where we have to log into a system to get the information that looks like it is requiring our email credentials.
Once they have our email credentials, they access the agents email from other places and monitor it sometimes for weeks until they see emails regarding wiring money for closing. Then they will send an email to the buyers saying that banks were changed and the wiring instructions have been updated with new routing & account numbers.
The email comes from their agent and so they think it’s official and true because they have no reason not to believe their agent who has been trustworthy the entire time through the transaction, so they simply take the new instructions, take it to the bank and wire to the new account.
You then show up the next day at the closing table ready to sign papers and close on a new home to find out the attorney never received your money. Bye the time everyone figures out what has happened, the money has been moved into multiple accounts and is never to be seen again.
How To Protect Your Wire
Whenever there is information sent like wiring instructions, you need to always double check that they came from the person you think they are from and that the numbers are correct. The absolute best way to confirm this is to pick up the telephone and call the attorney directly and ask them to confirm everything. Don’t simply send them an email asking if they are right because if their email is hacked, of course you are going to get a quick response saying they are accurate. Also, I’d refrain from texting as well as hackers can clone someone’s phone number for text messaging.
Next, don’t ever accept wiring instructions from your agent. As a Myrtle Beach REALTOR® I am never going to send you wiring information or get involved with this segment of the transaction. In fact in the footer of ever one of my emails is the following:
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Never trust wiring instructions sent via email. Cyber criminals are hacking email accounts and sending emails with fake wiring instructions. These emails are convincing and sophisticated. Always independently confirm wiring instructions in person or via a telephone call to a trusted and verified phone number. Never wire money without double-checking that the wiring instructions are correct.
So when you get instructions, always confirm with the person by hearing their voice and making sure they are correct.
So what do you do if you wire money to the wrong place? Well, the first step would be to reach out immediately to your bank and see if they can track things. Sometimes they can if it is soon enough and they can reverse things back into your account. But too many times the hackers are watching the account closely for the minute it registers they send from there to another account and then to another and another. When this happens it becomes virtually impossible to track and get your money back.
Once you speak to the bank, next contact your attorney right away and let them know of the mishap so that they can then alert all parties involved. Unfortunately, when these things happen, it usually means that the buyers can no longer afford to purchase and the sellers need to know quickly as well so that they can get on to trying to find a buyer for their home. You also will want to then reach out to local authorities and file a report. Who knows if they will be able to recover anything, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to get police involved too.
Hopefully this never happens to you that the hackers get your money. Be careful, remember to always verify on the phone and you should be good to go. If it does happen by chance, make sure to act swiftly and recover what you can.