Real estate transactions have been falling prey to familiar foes — hackers.

Hackers get into the personal data of real estate professionals or buyers involved in transactions, and send buyers emails with changed down-payment instructions so they can steal the payments, according to National Association of Realtors attorney Jessica Edgerton.

"The hackers are definitely getting in the middle of transactions," she said. "Their vehicles for getting there are not only between a real estate professional and the buyer. They break into a number of accounts."

She said hackers will often get access to the email accounts of professionals involved in real estate transactions ... and then wait.

"They sit back and collect information about an upcoming transaction until 'go' time. And then they send this very-timed, very convincing because they have been collecting data, email to the buyer —either from the hacked email, or from a very cleverly spoofed email account," she said.

The emails will often tell buyers there have been last-minute changes to the wiring instructions — directing buyers to send money to the hacker's account instead.

Edgerton says the cautionary here is, "from the standpoint of real estate professionals, the best practice is really, educate from the beginning."

She said buyers and real estate professionals should always verify transactions independently to avoid this kind of devastating thievery.

"The more people know, the less these guys are going to be able to get a grip on a transaction," she said.

If you suspect your transaction has been hacked, contact the FBI immediately.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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