wire transfer hacking

Prime Settlement recently received an email from the District of Columbia Land Title Association (DCLTA) and thought it was critical enough to share more widely as we conduct these kinds of transactions every day:

“You may have heard a report last week on WAMU, WTOP or the local TV news about a couple that lost $1.5 million when an email was hacked.

Frequently, cyber criminals will hack consumers’ or real estate professionals’ email accounts and change wire instructions to steal their down payment or proceeds from a sale. Once hackers gain access to an email account, they will monitor messages to find someone in the process of buying a home. Hackers have targeted real estate agents, title companies, attorneys, and even consumers.

Last month, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) released the video below to help communicate with a wider audience about this issue.

We want to make sure that both title company employees and consumers know what they can do to prevent wire fraud. Following are some simple tips can make it harder for criminals to steal consumers’ money.

Five Tips To Help Prevent Wire Fraud

  1. Call, do not email: Confirm all wiring instructions by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone number from the title company’s website or a business card.
  2. Be suspicious: It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment info.
  3. Confirm it all: Ask your bank to confirm not just the account number but also the name on the account before sending a wire.
  4. Verify immediately: You should call the title company or real estate agent to validate that the funds were received. Detecting that you sent the money to the wrong account within 24 hours gives you the best chance of recovering your money.
  5. Forward, don’t reply: When responding to an email, hit forward instead of reply and then start typing in the person’s email address. Criminals use email address that are very similar to the real one for a company. By typing in email addresses you will make it easier to discover if a fraudster is after you.

If you or your customers discover wire fraud, these are the procedures to take to recover stolen money. However, you must be alert and act quickly. For example, if the wire is for more than $50,000 and has been sent overseas, it may be possible for the FBI to initiate what is called a Financial Fraud Kill Chain (FFKC) process within 72 hours.

Procedures Following Discovery of Wire Theft

  1.  The victim must contact sending bank and request a RECALL to the receiving bank because of fraud.
  2.  The title company may also contact their bank treasury contacts.
  3.  File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3) regardless of amount. Enter the fraud details at www.iC3.gov.
    • Note BEC (Business Email Compromise).
    • Copy & paste the fraudulent email headers into the report (Do Not Forward)
    • Print a copy of the report for your records.
  4. Call your local FBI Field Office and provide them the information that you entered into www.iC3.gov. Also contact your state attorney general’s office.
  5. Call the sending bank again to ensure the recall actually happened.This is CRUCIAL since the FFKC process requires a SWIFT recall notice to be initiated.
  6. If the funds were sent to a foreign country, hire an attorney in that country to recover the funds.

Also view and share these important communications from the CFPB, FTC and the FBI.You are encouraged to post these links on your website and forward them to consumers.”

Prime Settlement takes your security very seriously and we employ a number of procedures to protect our clients from fraudsters and hackers. Please, if you have the slightest sense that something may not be right, reach out to us right away.