The Pearl Insurance folks had a very busy day meeting with attendees in the Re/Max R4 Marketplace in Las Vegas. True to the setting, we played blackjack with attendees (no dollars changed hands, trust me!) Everyone was a winner at our booth, leaving with a prize regardless of the outcome. We even had fun giving lessons to people who wanted to learn blackjack but didn’t want to jump on a “real” gambling table to do so! It was lots of fun and we met so many wonderful people throughout the day. I will say though that the booth behind us, with the Pop-A-Shot game, was getting a little tiring. You can only be hit by so many stray basketballs before the novelty wears off! Thankfully, the staff in that booth was very nice and apologetic—but the beatings still continued.
I attended a session presented by Ned Blumenthal—an attorney at Weismann, Nowack, Curry, and Wilco in Georgia. He specializes in real estate litigation, and happens to be one of the defense attorneys used by the Pearl errors and omissions (E&O) program. Interestingly, Ned shared that he is a “recovering” REALTOR® himself, which gives him a keen insight into this industry. Ned shared some really scary stories about the cyber fraud and hacking cases he’s been involved with. There are some bad people out there who are very creative, preying on folks in the midst of their real estate transaction, and they have some incredibly sophisticated methods to mimic an email account. As Ned put it, within milliseconds, a buyer’s closing funds can be distributed to a dozen accounts across the globe.
His first example included an email that was actually sent to a buyer from their real estate agent, which included settlement payment wiring instructions. Within ten minutes of receiving that email, the buyer got another one basically saying “oops, I sent you the wrong wire instructions in the email I sent you ten minutes ago. Please use this new information instead.” Both emails were closed with a salutation from the agent saying, “hugs and kisses, Pam.” Not only had the hacker completely disguised their presence by mirroring the agent’s email style, but they were also able to send that second email within ten minutes while referring back to the first one to make it appear authentic. The result? The buyer’s funds were sent to the fraudulent account, and gone forever!
Ned even shared an example of this happening on a for sale by owner (FSBO), which means real estate agent accounts are not the only targets. The most daring example given was an email sent to a buyer that started by saying there’s been a lot of wire fraud occurring recently, and for the client’s protection a law firm had created a link to transfer funds on their website. The link was imbedded on what appeared to be an email from the firm involved. When the buyer used the link, it took them to a website that looked exactly like the actual firm’s website, except the link to payment instructions was a fraudulent one.
Ned shared the following prevention tips to help prevent a hack:
Ned closed by cautioning that you can’t make yourself bulletproof. There’s a risk to getting out of bed each morning, and a risk to staying in bed each morning. With the ever-changing cybercrime world, we all need to be smart about our actions and how we do business to hopefully prevent becoming a victim.
Looking forward to another beautiful day in Vegas!