In recent weeks, headlines have focused on hackers who have commandeered the email of settlement agents causing large sums of money to be diverted to the hackers. Most notably, a Manhattan couple, who were sent wiring instructions from their real estate attorney’s AOL email, learned the hard way how easy it is for hackers to pose as legitimate parties and how it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a real email and an email from a hacker. The couple, following the wiring instructions in their attorney’s email, dutifully sent their $1.9 million deposit to the specified account. The account, however, was not the attorney’s trust account—it belonged to the hackers. Although the majority of the funds were recovered, the couple has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against their real estate attorney claiming that the use of an AOL account was a “neon sign” for potential hackers.
If you are using free email accounts to communicate with your clients, you should stop doing so immediately. It is common practice for agents to forward wire instructions or otherwise be involved in communications about the transfer of monies. Do not let your email be a neon sign for potential hackers. Protect your clients and protect yourself from potential lawsuits. Also be mindful of whether your E & O insurance would protect you in the event that your clients were to have money stolen from them because someone hacked your email account.
If you have questions regarding cyber security, Shulman Rogers has a cyber security team that can assist you.
For more information regarding our Residential Real Estate Settlements Group or our general real estate transactions and litigation practice, please contact the Group Chair at 301-230-6574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This publication/newsletter is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting a lawyer.
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