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Email Scams targeting wire transfers in Real Estate Transactions!

Beware of Email Scams targeting wire transfers in Real Estate Transactions

Email Scams targeting wire transfersRecent reports show that there is an uptick of email scams targeting wire transfers of real estate buyers. Sophisticated criminals are trying to steal money from unsuspecting buyers.

Here is how it works:

  1. Criminals hack into email accounts of someone involved in your real estate transaction.
  2. The criminal then steals information relating to the transaction.
  3. The criminals then email unsuspecting buyers from an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction. These emails inform the buyer there has been a last minute change in wiring instructions and dupe them into wiring funds to the hackers account.

It is important to proactively communicate with your escrow and title contacts to verifyEmail Scams targeting wire transfers proper wire instructions. The National Association of Realtors has urged all members to be on high alert for these types of email scams or fraud. Here are some recommendations per NAR for fraud prevention:

Follow this guidance from Realtor.org to avoid becoming a victim of email scams targeting wire transfers:

•Immediately contact all parties to all of your upcoming transactions and inform them of the possibility of this fraud.  Attorneys, escrow agents, buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and title agents have all been targeted in these scams.  You can also download and distribute NAR’s online fraud prevention handout, accessible here. •If possible, do not send sensitive information via email.  If you must use email to send sensitive information, use encrypted email. •Immediately prior to wiring any money, the person sending the money must call the intended recipient to verify the wiring instructions.  Only use a verified telephone number to make this call. •Do not trust contact information in unverified emails.  The hackers will recreate legitimate-looking signature blocks with their own telephone number.   In addition, fraudsters will include links to fake websites to further convince victims of their legitimacy. •Never click on any links in an unverified email.  In addition to leading you to fake websites, these links can contain viruses and other malicious spyware that can make your computer – and your transactions – vulnerable to attack. •Never conduct business over unsecured wifi. •Trust your instincts.  Tell clients that if an e-mail or a telephone call ever seems suspicious or “off,” that they should refrain from taking any action until the communication has been independently verified as legitimate. •Clean out your e-mail account on a regular basis. Your e-mails may establish patterns in your business practice over time that hackers can use against you. In addition, a longstanding backlog of e-mails may contain sensitive information from months or years past. You can always save important e-mails in a secure location on your internal system or hard drive. •Change your usernames and passwords on a regular basis, and make sure your employees and licensees do the same. •Never use usernames or passwords that are easy to guess. Never, ever use the password “password.” •Make sure to implement the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technologies in your business.

Damage Control

Email Scams targeting wire transfersIf you believe your e-mail or any other account has been hacked, or that you or a client has otherwise been a victim of online fraud, you should take the following steps:     •If money has been wired via false wiring instructions, immediately call all banks and financial institutions that could possibly put a stop to the wire. •Contact your local police. •Contact any clients or other parties who may have been exposed during the attack so that they take appropriate action. Remind them not to comply with any requests from an unverified source. •Change all usernames and passwords associated with any account that you believe may have been compromised or otherwise made vulnerable by the attack. •Report any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations via their Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information can be found by clicking here. •Brokers should report any fraudulent activity to their state or local REALTOR® association so that the associations can send out alerts or take other appropriate action, including contacting NAR.   Email Scams targeting wire transfers are real threats and you should do all you can to protect your assets from cyber-crime.   Be sure to use a real estate broker you trust that can guide you safely through your transaction. Contact Jesse Madison 949.306.8416 for all your Orange County Real Estate needs.

California Officials Take Down National Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Ring via DSNews.com

BY: CARRIE BAY 08/19/2011

via www.DSNews.com

California’s attorney general and the state’s Department of Justice have taken down a fraud ring of legal firms and attorneys that officials say swindled thousands of homeowners out of millions of dollars by convincing them to take part in mass lawsuits against their lenders.

Fraud ScamAttorney General Kamala Harris has sued Philip Kramer, the Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow, two other law firms, three other lawyers, and 14 other defendants who are accused of working together to defraud homeowners across the country through the deceptive marketing of “mass joinder” lawsuits. Mass joinder lawsuits involve hundreds, or more, individually named plaintiffs.

Kramer’s firm and other defendants were placed into receivership on August 15. The legal actions were designed to shut down a scheme operated by attorneys and their marketing partners, in which defendants used false and misleading representations to induce thousands of homeowners into joining the mass joinder lawsuits against their mortgage lenders.

Defendants also had their assets seized and were enjoined from continuing their operations. Nineteen special agents from the California Department of Justice participated as the firms were taken over on August 17, along with 42 agents and other personnel from HUD’s Office of Inspector General, the California State Bar, and the Office of Receiver Thomas McNamara.

Fourteen office locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties and 16 bank accounts were seized in the massive sweep.

“The defendants in this case fraudulently promised to win prompt mortgage relief for millions of vulnerable homeowners across the country,” said Attorney General

Harris. “Innocent people, already battered by the housing crisis, were targeted for fraud in their moment of distress.”

It is believed that at least two million pieces of mail were sent out by the defendants to victims in at least 17 states. The defendants’ revenue from this scam is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

“The number of lawyers who have tried to take advantage of distressed homeowners in these tough economic times is nothing short of shocking,” said William Hebert, president of the State Bar. “By taking over the practices of four attorneys accused of fraudulent marketing practices, the State Bar can put a stop to their deplorable conduct as part of our ongoing effort to protect the public.”

The California attorney general’s office says the defendants led homeowners to believe that by joining these lawsuits, they would stop pending foreclosures, reduce their loan balances or interest rates, obtain money damages, and even receive title to their homes free and clear of their existing mortgage. Defendants charged homeowners retainer fees of up to $10,000 to join as plaintiffs in a mass joinder lawsuit against their lender or loan servicer.

This mass joinder scam began with deceptive mass mailers, the attorney general’s lawsuit alleges. Some mailers, designed to appear as official settlement notices or government documents, informed homeowners that they were potential plaintiffs in a “national litigation settlement” against their lender.

No settlements existed and in many cases no lawsuit had even been filed, Harris says. Some consumers lost their homes shortly after paying the retainer fees demanded by defendants.

The Department of Justice has seized the practices of the following non-attorney defendants: Attorneys Processing Center, LLC; Data Management, LLC; Gary DiGirolamo; Bill Stephenson; Mitigation Professionals, LLC; Glen Reneau; Pate Marier & Associates, Inc.; James Pate; Ryan Marier; Home Retention Division; Michael Tapia; Lewis Marketing Corp.; Clarence Butt; and Thomas Phanco.

The State Bar has seized the practices and attorney accounts of the attorney defendants: the Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow; Philip Kramer, Esq; Mitchell J. Stein & Associates; Mitchell Stein, Esq.; Christopher Van Son, Esq.; Mesa Law Group Corp.; and Paul Petersen, Esq.