With reports of serious data hacks at Target, Equifax and other online retailers, chances are that most people have taken at least a few measures to protect their personal data online. But if you are in the market to purchase a home, you may not be aware of just how vulnerable you are to cybercrime.

From 2016 to 2017, real-estate spoofing scams, a form of cyber-security fraud, went from $19 million fraud scheme to over $1 billion. These spoofing scams are particularly troubling because they can result in the loss of all of a buyer’s personal savings. And here’s how the scheme works.

Scammers use malware to monitor the email exchanges between a buyer and other trusted representatives in the real transaction like attorneys, bankers, and real estate agents. When the home purchase is just about to close, the thieves send a spoof email to the buyer pretending to be a trusted advisor. The email instructs the buyer to wire funds into a specific account to begin the final steps of the closing process. The buyer completes this wire transfer believing the funds are going to the title company or an account held by the seller. But in reality, the scammers are diverting the money to their own accounts.

To avoid falling victim to these types of scams, home buyers should take the following measures to protect their personal information and money:

  1. Avoid using email to execute wire transfers and other sensitive transactions. Email is not secure, and therefore it is susceptible to hacking;
  2. For wire transfers, double check account numbers to make sure the information is accurate. Buyers also should personally verify all transfer information and call to confirm receipt of the wire transfer immediately after;
  3. For home buying matters involving checks, take care to send these instruments only via certified mail and verify that they are covered by fraud protection;
  4. Shred all paper documents containing sensitive or personal information that you no longer need in the home buying process; and
  5. Finally, only engage real estate professionals who understand the importance of data protection and have appropriate security measures in place.

If you need help protecting your next real estate transaction, we can help. Send us a message or call us at (314) 454-9100 to learn how we help our clients protect their information throughout the home buying process.

Who is Joel Green?

Joel Green is a seasoned attorney working closely with individual and business clients to provide advice and counsel in addressing their legal questions and concerns. Joel is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Illinois and splits his time between AEGIS’ main office, located in Clayton, Missouri, and its office in O’Fallon, Illinois.

Joel joined AEGIS after spending several years practicing at a large, regional law firm, located in St. Louis, Missouri. Joel has significant experience representing individual and business clients in the areas of estate planning, trust and probate administration, fiduciary relationships, real estate transactions and development, landlord / tenant issues, community associations and commercial and residential property management, strategic business planning and counseling, mergers and acquisitions, franchise and distribution relationships, business entity selection and formation, and commercial transactions.

Joel is on the Advisory Board of Directors for the St. Louis Crisis Nursery, and is a Director for the Delta Dental Health Theatre. Additionally, Joel is a member of the school board for Queen of All Saints School and is active in the parish community.