Scam Alert: Savvy Crooks Divert Money from Real Estate Closings

Scam Alert: Savvy Crooks Divert Money from Real Estate Closings
Image: NCCC
April 24, 2015

Real estate attorneys across North Carolina are reporting a new scam.

Crooks hack into the email account of someone who is involved in a real estate closing, and impersonate that person in communications with the law firm. They present themselves as the legitimate seller of the property, who lives out-of-state. In a phone call or email, they ask that their money from the sale be wired to directly their bank account.

In some cases, the crooks are able to defeat a two-step confirmation process, designed to protect against such scams, by using information harvested from the hacked email account.

There have been multiple reports of this fraud being attempted, and it has been pulled off successfully. In one instance, the scammers made off with $200,000 of the victim's money.

To combat this fraud, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's office recommends that attorneys and others who handle real estate transactions:

  • Ignore telephone numbers provided by email, and instead contact sellers via the telephone number provided by the sellers earlier in the negotiations.
  • Review their procedures for wiring funds to make sure they can detect and prevent this type of fraud.

Report all possible scams to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.