Hackers Pose as Real Estate Agents, Lenders, Title Reps to Commit Devastating Wire Fraud

Homebuyers work hard to save money to buy a home and it would be a nightmare if that money disappeared during the transaction. That nightmare is a reality for those who have fallen victim to a new kind of email scam.

How does it work? A hacker accesses an email account of a buyer, real estate agent, title representative, or mortgage lender and learns pertinent information about the pending transaction. They watch the communications about the transaction and just before closing, the hacker sends an email to the buyer posing as the agent, lender, or title rep, asking the buyer to wire a down payment, closing costs, etc., to a fraudulent account and the money is gone.

Think this can’t happen to you? Think again. This is a widespread problem that is occurring nationwide, including the Boise region.

“This exact scenario happened in our area,” said Katrina Wehr, Boise Regional REALTORS® President-Elect and Managing Broker of Keller Williams Realty Boise. “Consumers need to be aware that this is a possibility and talk with their real estate agents about protecting themselves against this scam. This includes calling your agent, lender, or title representative before wiring any money to confirm any wiring instructions. Do not confirm this over email, otherwise a hacker could see that message if someone’s email has been compromised. We recommend that our buyers and sellers have all wiring instructions verified with a phone call with your agent and never using a phone number supplied in a suspicious email.”

Wehr also suggests that REALTORS® have their clients sign the new Idaho Fraud Disclosure from Idaho REALTORS® to protect themselves should a client end up wiring money to a fraudulent account.

Hackers can also pose as potential buyers. Gwen Main, Business Development Representative for Pioneer Title, describes another example in which the title company receives an email from an “out of town buyer” purporting to have a property under contract and wants the escrow officer to facilitate the closing. Often this is a cash deal or they claim to have a large earnest money deposit. When the escrow officer agrees, the fraudulent buyer sends funds in the form of a wire or check along with a purchase and sale agreement.

“This may seem legitimate because the escrow officer might even know or confirm that the property is really listed for sale, and it is,” adds Main. “The amount for the contract even looks right given the list price. After a few days, the fraudulent buyer says the deal fell through and asks for the money back via a wire transfer. The original check or wire has either not cleared yet, or even if it has, it is still within the period for which payment can be stopped or reversed. Either way, the escrow officer ends up paying out funds when funds were really never paid in the first place.”

In another instance, the title company received an email from a “seller” just before closing asking to wire the sale proceeds instead of making a deposit or issuing a check, as previously instructed in writing. The title company also received an email from the “listing agent” confirming the change in plans, and that the money needs to be wired. The title company sought verbal verification before wiring any funds, and realized both the seller and real estate agent email accounts had been hacked.

How do you protect yourself from this scam? Wehr and Main shared the following tips for real estate agents, but they can also be used by consumers to discuss this issue with their REALTORS®:

  • Educate your buyers and sellers about this scam and define what you will and won’t communicate over email.
  • Use an email service that provides two-factor authentication and make sure it’s enabled.
  • NEVER wire funds based upon the content of an email. Instead, create a verification process to confirm wiring instructions in person or by phone. If by phone, do not use the number provided in a suspicious email.
  • If you suspect a wire or check was sent fraudulently, contact the bank immediately.

Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has six tips for REALTORS® to keep transactions secure:

  1. Add a standard warning about wire scams to your email signature or include a disclaimer at the bottom of your emails explaining that you will not discuss personal financial information over email. (Sample from NAR.)Here’s another example: ALERT! [Brokerage Name] will never send you wiring information via email or request that you send us personal financial information by email. If you receive an email message like this concerning any transaction involving [Brokerage Name], do not respond to the email and immediately contact your agent via phone.
  1. At the beginning of each transaction, tell clients what your communication practices are.
  1. If your client needs to do a wire transfer, call them on the phone immediately prior to the transfer of funds so they know they’re sending money to the legitimate source.
  1. You and your clients should avoid free Wi-Fi with no firewall to protect against hackers capturing an email password or other sensitive information.
  1. Always use strong passwords and change them regularly and advise your clients to do the same. It also wouldn’t hurt for your client to change their password before wire instructions are sent.
  1. Brokers should consider employing a staff person who is responsible for monitoring, updating, and implementing information security systems and procedures at your company.

Here are some additional resources:

Information to share with buyers:




Boise Regional REALTORS® Help Transform Downtown Meridian

BRR President Carey Farmer and BRR CEO Breanna Vanstrom join Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, partners and other officials at the Idaho Avenue Placemaking Project ribbon cutting ceremony on September 9th, 2016.

BRR President Carey Farmer and BRR CEO Breanna Vanstrom join Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, partners and other officials at the Idaho Avenue Placemaking Project ribbon cutting ceremony on September 9th, 2016.

The City of Meridian and Idaho Smart Growth unveiled the newly transformed Idaho Avenue in downtown Meridian on Friday, September 9, 2016, thanks in part to a placemaking grant from Boise Regional REALTORS® (formerly Ada County Association of REALTORS®) and the National Association of REALTORS®.

Placemaking reshapes a public space to be more welcoming, functional and attractive to people and activity – enhancing the community overall.  This was achieved on Idaho Avenue by narrowing traffic lanes to allow for boardwalks and public art projects; while colorful planters and outdoor seating invite people to stay awhile.

Boise Regional REALTORS® (BRR) kicked off this project by providing the grant through a partnership with Idaho Smart Growth. Idaho Smart Growth worked with Project for Public Spaces and various community organizations, local officials, and business leaders to select the Idaho Avenue location and complete the three-year pilot project, making it truly a community effort.

“We’re so glad that our association could be a part of the Idaho Avenue Placemaking Project,” said Carey Farmer, 2016 President of Boise Regional REALTORS® and broker associate with Group One Sotheby’s International Realty. “Investing in our communities is a priority to REALTORS®. Meridian is already a great place to live, projects like these only enhance it.”

The idea behind the placemaking process is to find lighter, quicker and cheaper ways to energize a space, drawing people and building community.  Partners and communities are encouraged to think creatively about low-cost improvements, and be flexible in the uses of public space so it fits the needs of the people that use them.

For more information about this project, see the Idaho Smart Growth “Placemaking Downtown” report.

A Name in 2016!

How do Al Jolson, The Beatles, Wilson Phillips, and Adele connect to the association’s history? Loosely, but stick with me.

cover art

Each were top artists the years that we had a name change. Here’s a quick history:

  • 1920 — The association was founded as the Boise Realty Board and Al Jolson’s “Swanee” was all the rage.
  • 1964 — The Beatles topped the charts with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and the name was changed to the Boise Board of REALTORS®.
  • 1990 — The name shifted to the Ada County Association of REALTORS® and Wilson Phillips encouraged everyone to “Hold On”… for one more day.
  • 2016 — And now, just a few weeks into 2016, we’re getting ready to change the name once again, this time to Boise Regional REALTORS®. All while Adele’s “Hello” is being played errywhere.

If you listen to these songs back-to-back, you can clearly hear how music styles changed over time, yet every song is focused on the same thing — relationships. Sort of like real estate. Business practices evolve and shift year-after-year, yet the agent-client relationship always remains central.

And as the business evolves, so must the association. Past name changes were done to incorporate the term “REALTOR®” or to represent the market’s expanding geography. Geography is part of this change, too. Our members don’t just do business in Ada County and our name must reflect the market in which they live and work. But beyond geography, this name change is being done with a focus on our members and the relationships they have with their clients.

First, re-introducing “Boise” into our name will allow us to tap into efforts by the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) and the Visitors Bureau, as they work to “brand” our region in the minds of people across the country. Doing so will improve the association’s consumer outreach initiatives, done on behalf of our members. For example, when people move here, they likely start searching “boise homes for sale,” not “ada county homes for sale” — see:

boise vs ada cty searchSource: google.com/trends/explore; Data generated January 31, 2016.

Once consumers get a sense of what’s in and around Boise, they expand their search to surrounding cities, or narrow in on neighborhoods, looking for REALTORS® who can help them through the process.

Our new name will better connect with consumers during this process, providing them with information on the value that REALTORS® bring to the transaction, and facilitating connections between consumers and REALTORS® both online and in the community.

Also, a name change also allows us to refresh the strategic focus and “personality” of the association. (Like how we now make Wilson Phillips references in our blog posts!) Kidding aside, it’s an exciting time for the organization, and we’re looking forward to rolling out new programs throughout the year.

logo evolution

It will take some getting used to the new name, Boise Regional REALTORS®, or Boise Regional or “B-R-R” for short, so if you happen to refer to us as ACAR, it’s ok. It will also take us some time to catch all the old logos and name references on our website and other materials. We think we’ve found most of them, but if you find any, please let us know.

Finally, watch our website — boirealtors.com — and updated Facebook and Twitter profiles for some of the fun things we have planned to celebrate the new name throughout February and 2016.

ACAR Installs 2016 President Carey Farmer; Shares Forthcoming Name Change


Carey Farmer 2016 President

Carey Farmer
2016 President

The Ada County Association of REALTORS® (ACAR) hosted its 2016 installation ceremony at Boise State University (BSU) on December 18, 2015. The event included a performance by the BSU Main Line Dancers — a tribute to the association’s 2016 President, REALTOR® Carey Farmer, who is a BSU alumna and former Main Line Dancer.

Farmer is an associate broker at Group One Real Estate and has been a REALTOR® for eight years. In addition to her service at ACAR, she is involved with the Junior League of Boise and the Boise Police Auxiliary.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in 2016,” said Carey Farmer. “As President, I plan to focus on two areas — advocating for the value that REALTORS® bring to consumers, and educating members about the resources available through the association. The increase in data and technology that’s available to consumers, paired with the fast pace of our local market, makes REALTORS® more valuable than ever. They help people navigate the ever-changing process of buying and selling homes, and can personalize transactions to the needs of each buyer and seller. Similarly, the association helps members navigate the changes in the real estate industry, by offering tools, statistics, classes, and more, suited to the individual needs of their businesses.”

During the installation event, ACAR’s Chief Executive Officer, Breanna Vanstrom shared that the association will be changing its name to Boise Regional REALTORS® in 2016. The association was known as the Boise Realty Board from 1920-1964, then as the Boise Board of REALTORS® starting in 1964, and then as the Ada County Association of REALTORS® starting in 1990. Vanstrom had this to say about the new President and forthcoming name change:

“We have a long tradition of outstanding leadership at the association which will certainly continue with Carey. She is a successful REALTOR® who thoroughly understands the issues and opportunities facing our industry, and will use her insights and experiences to strategically guide our organization. This will be especially important as the organization changes its name to Boise Regional REALTORS® in early 2016. By re-introducing Boise into our name, we hope to support the efforts of groups BVEP and the Visitors Bureau, as they work to ‘brand’ our community in the minds of people across the country. But also, our members don’t just do business in Ada County, and we want our name to reflect the expanding area in which our members live and work.”

An official announcement and more details about the name change will be shared soon.

Other leaders who were sworn in to serve on behalf of the association include President-Elect Katrina Wehr of Silvercreek Realty Group, Vice President Gary Salisbury of Red Barn Real Estate, Treasurer Danielle Cullip of Silverhawk Realty, Immediate Past President Brenda Kolsen of Silverhawk Realty, two new Directors Krista Deacon of Silvercreek Realty Group and Jeffrey Wills of Amherst Madison Legacy, and five new State Directors Becky Enrico-Crum of Andy Enrico & Company, Shirley Koch of Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Group, Carolyn Sinnard of Happy Dog Realty, Susan Weaver of Group One Real Estate, and Greg Winther of Silvercreek Realty Group.

They will work alongside the association’s continuing Directors Michelle Bailey of Keller Williams Realty Boise, Jared Cozby of Front Street Brokers, Dianne Hough of Group One, and Bob Van Allen of Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Group, and continuing State Directors Chase Craig of Keller Williams Realty Boise, Phil Mount of Front Street Brokers, Gary Salisbury of Red Barn Real Estate, and Katrina Wehr of Silvercreek Realty Group. The associations is also represented on the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors by Kit Fitzgerald of Red Barn Real Estate, whose term goes through 2016.

View Photo Gallery

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The Ada County Association of REALTORS® (ACAR) represents more than 3,600 real estate professionals throughout the Boise region, providing resources to help members conduct their businesses professionally, ethically, and successfully. For more information, visit www.myacar.com.

ACAR Executive Inducted Into National Leadership Society

Marc_LebowitzBOISE, March, 27:  
Marc Lebowitz, Executive Director for the Ada County Association of Realtors®, was inducted into the National Association of Realtors Bud Smith Leadership Society last week .

To achieve induction into the Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society, it must be demonstrated that nominees have brought credit to the profession of association management through their personal involvement in advancing the purposes of the organization at the local, state, and national level; provided leadership in ways that have benefited the organization, the members, or other association executives; or made other significant contributions that have advanced their organization in meaningful ways. To recognize those who excel in the association management profession by demonstrating uncommon leadership, a willingness to help others, and acceptance of a responsibility to constantly improve themselves.

Lebowitz holds a BA in English and Film from the University of Maryland and has earned both the Realtor Certified Association Executive (RCE) from the National Association of Realtors and the Certified Association Executive (CAE) from the American Society of Association Executives.

Lebowitz serves on the Board of Directors for Neighborhood Housing Services – Southwest.

The Mission of Ada County Association of REALTORS® is to be valued by the real estate profession and the public, to protect private property rights, to better the communities in which we live, and to provide members with tools and resources to conduct their businesses professionally, ethically, and successfully.

February Market Report

February Market Report…kind of like skiing in the rain. It’s good but you wish it was better.

Single family home sales in February 2014 were 422 in Ada County, an decrease of 10% compared to February 2013.  January sales were strong, and, when linked with February gives us a YTD total sales exactly equal to this time last year; 836 homes sold.

In February more than 50% of our total sales were for homes priced above $160,000.  Sales of homes priced above $160,000 were up over February 2013.

Days on Market for February were 66.  That’s down from January, but still up significantly from December’s 59. In February 2013, Days on Market was 72.

New homes sold in February totaled 96; down 9% from last year.

Existing home sales were 326; down 10%.

Historically, February sales increase from January by an average of 3%. February 2014 posted a 4% increase over January.

Of the total sales in February, 13% were distressed; up 1% from last month. In February 2013, 23% of sales were distressed.

For the month of February, REO sales (62% of Distressed; 34 total sales) exceeded Short Sales (38% of Distressed; 20 total sales).

Pending sales at the end of February were 951; down 10% from February 2013.

Of Pending sales in distress (12%), there are slightly more Short Sales (57%; 65 sales) than REO’s (43%; 49 sales).

February median home price was $199,650; up 11% from February 2013.

New Homes median price for February was $320,500; up 23% from February 2013. For Existing homes the increase is 6% to $169,900.

The number of houses available for sale at the end of February increased  slightly from January 2014 to 2,127.  This reverses four consecutive month of decrease.  This is 23% more than last year at this time…which we need heading into Spring.

We anticipate continued inventory growth from now until the end of Summer.

Of the total active listings, 10% are distressed, down 1% from January.

Of our Distressed Inventory, 67% is Short Sales (142) and 33% is REO (70).

In Ada County we now have 4.7 months of inventory on hand, up a little from the end of January.

The price category in shortest supply is <$100K where we have 1.4 months.

From $100,000 to $119,000 we have 2.1 months available.

From $120,000 to $160,000 we have just under 3 months available inventory.

From $160,000 to $300,000 we have nearly 5 months…except for the very popular $250,000 – $300,000 which has only 4.5 month’s supply available.

Above $300,000 we have a 5 month’s supply. Above $500,000 the supply is closer to 14 months.  Remembering that 6 months of available inventory describes a “stable real estate market”; it looks like we are heading into a period of “normal” like we haven’t seen in several years.

Of sales in February, the most popular price point was $120,000 to $160,000 (26%); followed by $160,000 to $200,000 (14%) and  $200,000 to $250,000 with 12%.

So…what’s next?

Sales did hit a Winter wall in February.  We are now chasing a super strong Spring and Summer 2013. March 2013 sales were 550.  Can we increase sales from 422 to 550 with Pending sales where they are? It’s going to be close.

February is typically our weakest month for median home price. February 2014 was pretty strong.  This should continue into the Summer.

We are seeing more and more data that says that the Millennials (the big homebuyer wild card) are feeling better and better about home ownership.  Nearly 90% of Millennial buyers say “homeownership is a good investment”.

This is the pent up demand we’ve been waiting to see activate.

Bottom line…its going to be a complicated first quarter for real estate.

The Market Report in Pictures:


Median Price