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Cyber attacks affect local real estate

Ridgecrest Ca Homes Clint Freeman broker/owner–   The local real estate world woke up to news on Monday that Loan Depot, the fourth largest lender in the US, which services many local residential loans, was completely shut down due to a malware attack. The breach completely halted all business activity.  All employees nationwide are now in the process of having emails and passwords reassigned. Loan processing and funding is gradually coming back online.

This episode appears to be the tip of the iceberg with the new reality of real estate in 2024. Hackers are seeking to break into accounts to steal information and thwart operations. Scammers are out to distract buyers into sending closing funds into false accounts that appear to be connected to title companies.

According to Housewire, residential real estate dominated the market with a projected market volume of $88.91 trillion in 2023. No doubt, hackers know where the money is and are not shy in seeking to grab it with all the gusto they can. It is now a common daily playbook for banks, hospitals, companies, and those in the real estate industry to do all they can to protect themselves from the ongoing threat of cyber-attacks.

Case in point, sellers, buyers, and realtors hoping to close escrows last November were awakened to an unexpected closing bump when Chicago Title shut down operations for about 10 days. An undisclosed source stated the company was believed to have been hit with a cyberattack. It turned out to be a false alarm, but as a  safety precaution, action was taken to shut down all transactions and online operations, including email. Phone calls going in and out were also interrupted.

And, First American Title Company or FATCO, which also serves the Ridgecrest area, suffered from a cyber-attack just after January 1. All operations were shut down in order to take precautions against being further breached. According to an undisclosed source, there were at least ten security intrusions reported in all. FATCO is also connected to The Federal Savings Bank.

It needs to be pointed out that mortgage lenders and title companies have strict protocols in place in order to protect the private information of the clients they serve if cyber-attacks do occur. They are watching out for the public. Protecting private information is their utmost concern.

As we move forward in 2024, there are also protocols customers can put in place to protect themselves. For instance, when receiving wire instructions, verify with the escrow officer that the instructions are indeed from the title company. Verify when a wire was sent, and call to verify again that the wire was received on the other end.

And realtors, don’t put yourself in the middle of a wire transfer.  Always have your clients receive wiring instructions directly from the escrow officer.  Being a middle party to a wire transfer opens up the ability for a troll to hack your email. Wire instructions can then be easily traced and unknowingly hacked.

Clint Freeman is the broker/owner of RidgecrestCaHomes—Honesty, Integrity, and Loyalty in every transaction.

More at www.RidgecrestCaHomes.com