NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Real estate companies in the winter months usually aren’t very busy, but that doesn’t mean scammers are sitting idle.

According to grandviewresearch.com, in 2022, real estate was a $3.81 trillion industry. And some thieves want in on that money.

“Numbers can get changed and then all of the sudden banks are wiring the amount for closings to an unknown account somewhere overseas, and then it’s gone,” said Signal Realty Managing Broker, Alecia Berg.

Hackers target email accounts of real estate brokers and salespersons, as well as parties involved in real estate transactions, like banks.

In most cases, hackers have been able to intercept emailed wire transfer instructions, obtain account information, and use emails to convince buyers and sellers to redirect the money to a fraudulent account.

Leaving you out of money and making it hard to get it back, because it doesn’t take long for your money to disappear either in or out of the country.

“The sad thing is that they can copy the email and make it look really legit, so it’s just following up where you’re sending the money because the biggest thing is that wire fraud, so if they can call the bank, call the title company and just verbally check the numbers with somebody,” added Berg.

If the person you are in contact with does not want to meet in person, that should be a huge red flag. Always push to meet in person.

“Tell the people that they can’t go look at the house, they’ll let them know when they can, and then they aren’t reachable after they’ve gotten that security deposit,” stated Berg.

Always do your research when closing on a house, to make sure that people don’t walk away with your hard-earned money. And always double and triple-check with your bank, mortgage company, and realtors.

Berg says a good majority, if not all real estate agencies, end up meeting in-person to offer that piece of mind to their client.

The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you is to never wire money without personally meeting with the intended recipient.