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Exec says he lost $2M after his real estate agent’s email was hacked

Besides money, data breaches (hacks) can have harmful effects on an individual’s business such as time and resources spent.

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I get a lot of emails, I think we all do. The ones I pay particular attention to are the ones from people I think I know.

At first glance the name looks familiar, but then on closer inspection I see a letter is missing or the name is spelled phonetically or some crazy thing. It all adds up to a scam, but the truth is if I don’t take an extra second to scrutinize my email I’m setting myself up for problems. Same goes for you!

A costly mistake

The NY Post reported in a recent article that such was the case with a former Lehman Brothers executive who unwittingly wired a $2 million deposit for a $20 million Manhattan apartment to cyber criminals. Now he’s blaming his real estate attorney and her vulnerable AOL email address for the breach.

As sad as this story is, the bigger question is who’s really at fault here: the guy who allowed himself to get hacked or the executive who unwittingly played right into the hands of the hackers?

Safe, not sorry

While this melodrama plays itself out in court the rest of us would do well to heed some common sense advice found on a recent article regarding computer hacking and protecting ourselves from the same:

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Create a data security program: Many states, possibly even yours, require businesses both large and small to establish data security policies regarding the collection, use, distribution and destruction of consumer personal information.

Implement good email practices: Data breaches involving email occur all the time. So do the right thing: Change your password on a regular basis and make the password complex so it’s not that easy to decipher. Heck, just creating such a policy will probably lock a lot of the legalities into your own memory.

Trust no one: That’s my motto anyway whether it involves hacking or hamburgers. Anything that looks suspicious, whether it’s an email or some social media post is better off ignored if something doesn’t seem legit. And in the bigger scheme of things cyber fraud in real estate transactions definitely exists. To ignore that possibility is being blind to world of business.


When the mistake happens, it’s already too late. The hacker could care less. He/she isn’t going to wait around with a slice of apple pie and coffee at the ready to help sooth your bruised ego.

Getting back to the Lehman Brothers executive: If there’s a happy ending to this sordid tale of “He said/She said” it’s that the victim, according to the Post, recouped all but $200,000 dollars of the loss. The rest it is hoped will be recovered in court after the real estate attorney is sued for damages.

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Be safe, not sorry. Practice cyber security as if your life depended on it.


Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.


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