Washington – James and Candace Butcher finally went to buy the house that they dreamed of for their old age by making an electronic transfer of $ 272,000. But a few hours later the sum was gone.
or "hackers"had hacked the mailbox of the mediator who was responsible for transferring the money, changed the bank details and got back the money from this couple in Colorado (center), can read in their complaint.
According to the FBI, the federal police, the number of computer hackers of this type in the property between 2015 and 2017 has been multiplied by more than 10 and the losses by more than 20 …
In 2017 alone, almost 10,000 victims came forward, for cumulative losses of $ 56 million.
The butchers, who had to move in with their son, finally settled an amicable settlement with their broker, their bank and the intermediary responsible for transferring the money (equivalent job at the notary in France), according to their lawyer Ian Hicks.
Real estate is an important target for hackers, who can rely on unsecured electronic systems in this sector and hope to get very large amounts back.
"In these folders the hacker knows all the details of the transaction, completely confidential matters"says Hicks, who handles more than a dozen similar cases in the United States.
– Unsecured e-mails –
Real estate is only a small part of e-credit fraud, but piracy has particularly devastating consequences in this sector.
"The loss can be devastating and destroy lives", emphasizes lawyer Ian Hicks.
In the US capital Washington claims to have lost a few 1.5 million dollars.
In addition to the amounts involved, real estate is also particularly focused because employees in the sector "are not the tech savvy"says Sherrod DeGrippo, threat manager at Proofpoint, specialized in IT security.
In addition, prospective buyers are often easy prey. Hackers benefit from the fact that "when you buy the house of your dreams, you are often in a state of great emotional intensity"what you can make less suspicious," she explains.
This scam seems to come from abroad, perhaps from Russia or Africa, with the help of many techniques to escape the police, including the circulation of money from bank to bank, says DeGrippo.
"Banks have very powerful control systems"But in general we can not fight scams of hacked e-mails," says Paul Benda, cybersecurity specialist at the American Bankers Association.receipt of a customer's transfer instructions, they are responsible for sending to where it is indicated"he adds.
Mr Benda explained that consumers should understand that a transfer "as a liquidand money may be impossible to repair, especially if it is found abroad.
– Whose debt is it?
Consumer complaints are often aimed at brokers, lawyers, banks … all kinds of intermediaries.
When buying property, "there are many people involved"and thieves"can hack every stakeholder", regrets Finley Maxson, attorney at the National Association of Realtors.
and "these e-mails have become much more sophisticated, they are much more difficult to detecthe said, adding that his association, like others, tries to raise the awareness of the problem, especially by never advising to send the transfer information by e-mail.
As for real estate professionals, they have a responsibility to ensure that their systems are secure and to provide sufficient information to their customers, says lawyer Ian Hicks.
Sentences have already been pronounced, including a federal court in Kansas City in June, which condemned a broker to refund buyers 85% of the pirated amount.
The hackers acted as brokers and sent buyers various bank details and recovered the money.
For Mr. Hicks, "As long as the professionals do not have to pay (in case of piracy), they will not do what is necessary to protect the consumer".