PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Like most realtors, Kristina Soloviena emails clients all day long. But last year, unknown to her, hackers infiltrated her Gmail account, monitored the correspondence between her and her clients and waited for the perfect time to strike.
“It was time to send the remainder of the down payment to close escrow,” Soloviena said.
Using Solovieva’s email account, the hackers sent a message to one of her clients telling them to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fraudulent account.
“It’s creepy, uh being watched and knowing they’ve been reading all of our emails,” Soloviena said.
The National Association of Realtors and the FBI are now issuing warnings about “sophisticated email scams targeting the real estate industry.”
“It’s a nationwide phenomena, unfortunately,” Matt Fuller of the San Francisco Association of Realtors said.
He warns realtors aren’t the only ones being hacked.
“It can be the agents email, it can be the title company, it can be a lender — it can be a transaction coordinator,” Fuller said.
The hackers’ goal, he says, is to impersonate someone involved in the real estate transaction.
By sending emails from their account, instructing buyers to wire money, usually when the buyer is expecting to make a payment.
“They’d been watching us all along – and reading all of our correspondence,” Soloviena said.
Lucky for Soloviena’s clients, they questioned the fake email and didn’t fall for it.
The National Association of Realtors and the FBI advise everyone buying, or trying to buy real estate to verify any instructions they receive in an email and never wire money unless you are positive the instructions came from a reliable source.