Hackers find way to steal millions from home buyers

Bad guys are hacking realtor emails
Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-03 19:14:13-04

Chad Butler designed a dream home for he and his wife. Then a thief intercepted the couple’s deposit.

A hacker broke into his realtor's email and found the down payment and closing date information. The con-artist set up a dummy forwarding address so everything the Butlers sent back got intercepted.

This home buyer followed what he thought were wiring instructions from his realtor. It cost the couple $42 thousand, devastating them financially.

Joellyn Robles with Hillsborough Title estimates her office blocks about 4,000 of these attempted hacks every month. She says the thieves monitor email traffic then strike as a deal is about to close.

So how can you protect yourself?

  • Never ever wire money without calling your realtor or title company and verifying wiring instructions.
  • Use a phone number you independently verify not the one in the email.

Hillsborough Title and others in the real estate business say they've taken multiple steps to combat the fraud. They include using secure portals to message clients wiring instructions.

In some cases, the realtors and title companies cover the loss but Chad Butler says his realtor did not.

Local agents say they know of buyers who’ve lost between $5,000 and $1 million dollars.