Protect yourself and clients from real estate scams

The F.B.I. says real estate transactions are a growing target of wire fraud. Here are some ways to fight back.

Justin Rubinstein, a licensed associate real estate broker at Compass, was working with a buyer to close on a one-bedroom condo on the Williamsburg waterfront in June of 2016. As the deal was being finalized, the client received an email — ostensibly from his lawyer — providing specific instructions about where to wire a $213,500 down payment.

Within moments of sending the money, the client discovered that the wiring instructions had not been sent by his lawyer, but by a scammer, and that he was a victim of wire fraud. But the client got lucky. He alerted his bank immediately and was able to put a freeze on the account before the funds were transferred.

“The criminals operating the scam hacked into the attorney’s email, monitored their account, and closely followed their deals,” Mr. Rubinstein said. “When it came time to send a wire for the down payment, they intercepted the email and sent fraudulent wire instructions to the purchaser.”

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