A local attorney informed me of a scam perpetrated on his firm involving a wire transfer. I shared the horrible story with a number of attorneys in the area, and I received numerous responses that similar scams had been attempted at their offices. Apparently this is big problem:
After a closing, the Settlement Agent received emails that appear to come from the Seller’s attorney and the Sellers asking that the proceeds be wired (with wiring instructions). In one case the Sellers had left the office with a check and the Settlement Agent received emails from the Seller and the Seller’s attorney that they had problems depositing the check and the check has been destroyed and requesting a wire.
The attorney was alert enough to call the Seller’s attorney by phone, only to learn that he never sent the emails and the proceeds check had been safely deposited. Apparently somebody had hacked the email account of one of the parties in the transaction. The email addresses being used to send the wiring instructions looked legitimate, but after closer inspection it appears that one letter was different; so that hackers are fairly sophisticated.
Somehow the hacker knew the details of the closing, the names of the parties, the proceeds amount, etc. Very disturbing.
Some attorneys have said that they will only process wire transfers if they have an authorization letter signed in person by the Seller accompanied by written instructions, or similar safeguards.
Keep your eyes open and share this with your colleagues
Paul F. Alphen, Esquire
Alphen & Santos, P.C.