A friend and her husband have just sold their home. Congratulations! The money from the sale will be deposited into their bank account immediately after they sign the closing documents, right? Listen to this.
At 6 AM on the morning of their closing, their lawyer called to tell them that he had received new wiring instructions to send ALL of the sale price of the house to a new bank account, with new bank routing instructions. It came to the lawyer from an email account which was very close to our friend’s email, but she had not sent the instructions. Who knew that a thief can send an email to your lawyer that looks like it comes from you?
Luckily, their lawyer ‘smelled a rat’ and checked before the money got deposited into a bank account which was not theirs. No harm, this time.
She, and we, thought that you should know that apparently this is not the first time this has happened. Her computer guru told her that he had been involved in a similar case a year or so ago, and both the police and the FBI got involved. The FBI told him that we should all be using secure systems – phone or FAX – for transfer of our financial information and transactions – and confirmations of such actions.
We hope that the police and the FBI will track down the sender of the bogus email in our friend’s case, but others have not been so lucky. Once the money is deposited into a thief’s account, it would be very slow and complicated or impossible to get it back.
Who do they think did this? Hard to say. It might be a bank employee or ex-employee. It could be someone in the lawyer’s office.
How do you protect yourself? We are told the best way to keep financial transactions safe is to require a voice confirmation from your bank for any banking instructions that you send. Fax is safer than email for the instructions themselves.
We are getting nostalgic for the days of paper checks, deposit slips and a local banker who knows us.