Real estate agents targeted in phishing scam

By Kevin Juliano, CAE, RCE | Feb. 20, 2017 | 3 min. read

Email scams and wire fraud schemes have targeted all types of Internet users for years. Recent reports about one particular scam indicate that multiple Pennsylvania Realtors® have been targeted. Recently, Realtors® and their clients have been on the receiving end of large-scale plots to disrupt a successful real estate transaction. One Realtor® from Dubuque, Iowa knows this all too well.

Sue Dietz, a real estate sales associate, who also served as president of the East Central Iowa Association of Realtors® in 2016, says scammers continue to use her identity to create fake email addresses in her name and then send fraudulent emails offering referrals to other real estate agents. The emails contained fake contact information for Dietz. Once a recipient replies to the fake email, they are sent a Google Drive link that is supposed to contain details about the referral. Instead, when unsuspecting email users click on the link, a computer virus is installed that allow scammers to scrape passwords and other personal information.

The initial fraudulent email typically reads:


My name is Sue Dietz a realtor with RE/MAX ADVANTAGE REALTY in Dubuque IA, I have a client who is interested in buying a property in your area of expert, Please let me know if you’re available to help them out and I will send their contact details and the listings they are interested in.



If you have received this – or any – email scam, you are encouraged to report it as spam. The hope is that if enough people take such action, the IP address of the sender will be blocked.

Since February 2016, when the scam apparently started, nearly 4,000 practitioners nationwide – from all 50 states and Canada – who received the emails have contacted Dietz to either confirm the referral or warn her of the scam. “I’ve gotten calls at the office, on my cell phone, texts, and emails at all hours of the day and night,” she says.

If you receive an unsolicited email from another real estate agent and do not personally know them, open a new tab in your web browser and conduct a simple Google search. Look for contact information for the email sender and verify that the two match. If the email you received has different information, report it as spam and contact the agent in a new email stating you received the false email.

In addition to the National Association of Realtors®’ Field Guide to Reducing Spam Email, Jessica Edgerton, associate counsel for the National Association of Realtors®, offers the following tips to make your email more secure:

  • Check your sent mail, junk mail, and email account settings regularly for anomalies. Hackers often break into an email account and modify the “email forwarding” settings to forward emails to their own account.
  • Regularly purge your email of unneeded or outdated information. Save any important emails securely.
  • Avoid email as a method for sending sensitive or confidential information. Instead, consider using a secure document sharing or transaction management platform.
  • Use strong passwords that incorporate a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication.
  • Avoid using unsecured or public Wi-Fi.

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