The first thing you have to be aware of as a buyer, seller, or real estate agent, is that there is absolutely no question that your email, the attorneys email, and the title insurance companies email can be taken over by an email perpetrator that can control multiple parties email accounts which are involved in one real estate closing transaction. When I say a hacker has taken over an email, what I mean is they are in total control of your email and has acquired your email password to gain access and manipulate your email. This enables the email hacker to send emails using your exact email address, and deleting any emails they send or you may receive that they do not want you to see. The email hacker waits patiently and reads the emails going back and forth among the closing parties waiting for the right moment to interfere. Then when it’s time to send money, the hacker sends emails to the buyers, which looks like they are from either realtors, attorneys, or title company email address or a similar email address using different email provider such as @Outlook.com, @Gmail.com, @Me.com, @AOL.com, @Hotmail.com, etc., or actually uses the exact email address of the realtors, attorneys, title companies, which was hacked by the perpetrator. Then the hacker provides the buyer a bank’s name and wire instructions in which the email hacker created this bank account online where the bank does not require any, or very little forms of identification, or produced forged identity documents to open a bank account online, using either the realtors, attorneys, or title companies business names with the purpose of having the buyers funds to close be wired into his account and quickly transferred out of that bank to another bank account under the hackers control. The Florida Department of State Division of Corporations website allows anyone to view details about a Florida entity’s name, and also discloses the entity’s tax ID number, which is freely available to the email hacker to create a fraudulent bank account. A similar manipulation can occur with the sellers proceeds from the real estate transaction in which the email hacker seller instructs the attorney, or title company to wire money to a fraudulent bank account controlled by the hacker in the seller’s name with the same intention to gain control of the sellers closing proceeds. Additionally, the hackers can send emails from the realtor’s email address telling the buyer, the attorney, and the title company to wire money to the manipulated hacker’s bank account.
When money is stolen and not recoverable from the hackers manipulated bank account where the wire was routed, it becomes a huge problem to establish each parties liability in their involvement and contribution towards the loss and what financial liability they will incur. Title insurance companies and attorney’s in the State of Florida are required to carry errors and omissions insurance. Real estate companies in the State of Florida are not required to carry errors and omissions insurance, and a great deal of Florida real estate agents do not carry errors and omissions insurance. Real estate agents and real estate brokers who do not carry errors and omissions insurance could very well be held personally liable for the funds lost in the fraudulent wire transaction fraud. Errors and omissions insurance may be used to seek possible coverage against the parties involved and possibly contribute towards the loss of manipulated wired closing funds to the email hacker’s manipulated bank account. If errors and omissions insurance is not a source of loss coverage, the buyer may have recourse under the owners title insurance policy. Whatever the case, losing closing funds through wire fraud is a complete disaster for all parties involved.
Well, I imagine that you are wondering at this point what can be done to prevent wire fraud when closing a real estate transaction. The only way to prevent this type of wire fraud is for all parties to be in contact from the beginning of the transaction to the end by telephone and not just email. We live in a world of email and texting, but when it comes to wiring funds we need to conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.
When the email recipient is in the process of emailing wire instructions to the party who is going to initiate a bank wire, both parties must be on the telephone with each other in front of their computers to confirm verbally that the wire information sent from the wire recipient to the wire initiator, is correct and has not been changed or manipulated.