Recently instances of customers being deceived into misdirecting their funds to a hacker’s account have occurred after the hacker intercepted emails between the purchaser or borrower, and the title company or the attorney concerning an upcoming transaction. The customers received emails (allegedly) from a title agency providing wire information that had been altered, so the customer unknowingly transferred their funds for the transaction directly into the hacker’s own account. This scam with an altered email could conceivably be used to cause misdirection of funds by any party in the transaction, including the title agents. Since these e-mails appear to be genuine containing the title agency’s email information and logos or branding, the importance of using encrypted email, when it is available, to send private information especially with account numbers needs to be emphasized.
In order to safeguard against this type of scam, make sure to secure computer systems and email accounts, and always confirm wiring instructions between appropriate parties and title companies. It is recommended to avoid the use of subject lines that include the words “wire instructions”, “account number” or “ ABA” because it is likely emails are being scanned for certain character strings. Email addresses have been revised by changing certain letters, such as the letter “O” to the number “0.” These clever, unscrupulous hackers have even gone so far as to send fake emails canceling the actual closing to delay detection of their scam. Best practice is to confirm directly with the title company all wire transaction information.