Don't open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you're expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer."
If you doubt that this is a common occurrence, then just do a quick internet search about "hackers stealing home down payment" or "hackers stealing real estate agent email." You will get plenty of real life stories to make you take this seriously!
(1) "Hackers prey on home buyers, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake": www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/hackers-prey-on-home-buyers-with-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-at-stake/2017/10/30/0379dcb4-bd87-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html
(2) "Hacked Homebuyers: Scammers Are Stealing People’s Down Payments" newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/03/01/hacked-homebuyers/
(3) "Stop Scammers From Stealing Your Down Payment" www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stop-scammers-from-stealing-your-down-payment_us_59f75a74e4b094db8e76f764
(4) "Scammers Stealing Down Payments By Hacking Real Estate Agents' Email Accounts" miami.cbslocal.com/2017/09/20/real-estate-email-hacks/
Here is some advice from a Washington Post article about "How to avoid losing your home settlement funds in a wire fraud":
"1. Never wire funds to anybody or any institution unless you have checked the wire instructions independently with your title company, settlement or closing agent.
2. If you can't or won't confirm the information over the phone, most title companies, settlement companies and closing agents post their wire instructions online, so be sure you check their official websites. If they do, you can compare those instructions with the instructions you received.
3. Some agents will confirm the instructions you received over the phone if you give them the information you received. Just make sure you are talking to the right person at the right place."
One very *simple* step that would go a LONG way in stopping this life-devastating nonsense would be for Real Estate agents (and mortgage brokers and title companies) to implement two-factor authentication (2FA) on all their email accounts. (Even if you don't know what that is, they should be able to do this by talking to their IT people. See here for more info: authy.com/what-is-2fa/ , specifically the section entitled, "2FA To The Rescue.")
This scheme is happening more and more. Please just take steps to ensure you don't lose your life savings.
Just go ahead and ask your real estate agent, loan company, and escrow company if they are using two-factor authentication on their email accounts. Insist that they do! And follow the advice above in the Washington Post article before wiring any money.
Happy Home Buying!