scammers hacked into her lawyer’s email and sent her incorrect details
An Upper West Side resident claims she lost more than $750,000 as a result of her real estate lawyer’s email being hacked. Now she is trying to recover the money through legal action, according to ILoveTheUpperWestSide.
Leila Meltzer was trying to buy a new apartment, and she thought she had found one by moving out of her studio at 205 West End Avenue into a one-bedroom apartment in the same building. The 75-year-old retired nurse hired real estate attorney Debra Powell to “advise, assist and represent her” in the purchase. She obtained permission from the co-op council, made a down payment of $84,900, and even began the process of selling her own condo with a down payment of $43,250 from the buyer.
At that moment, the unexpected happened.
According to court documents, when the remainder of the payment (totaling $746,100) came due, Meltzer received an email that she thought was from Powell. They were actually cybercriminals who hacked into Powell’s email.
They asked Meltzer to confirm the amount and said that they would send instructions for the transfer of money in the near future. When the instructions were received, they listed a separate Georgia bank account. Meltzer wired the money and didn’t find out about the scam until two days later, when Powell called to say the seller hadn’t received the transfer.
By the time the woman went to her bank to get the money back, it was already too late. The money has already been withdrawn. Unable to receive the money, Meltzer was forced to abandon her apartment purchase, losing $14,000 of her down payment in the process, bringing her total loss to $760,100.
She is now suing Powell for that amount “in damages, plus punitive damages, attorney’s fees, accrued interest, costs and expenses of this enforcement proceeding.”
The lawsuit accuses Powell of legal malpractice and breach of contract, alleging that Powell failed to “take even the most basic steps to protect Meltzer from cyber fraud.”
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Powell “never advised Meltzer to verbally confirm any money transfer instructions” and did not use two-factor authentication on her email account. In this case, after entering the password, Powell was required to enter a code obtained using a second device (such as a mobile phone), which, according to the lawsuit, “would make it much more difficult for an unauthorized user to ‘hack’ the system.”
According to Meltzer’s lawyer, Roger Bernstein, she “cannot sleep well and hopes for justice.” Lawyer Powell also made a statement:
“Unfortunately, Ms. Meltzer was the victim of criminal cyber fraud, however, her claims against Ms. Powell are unfounded, and Ms. Powell will vigorously defend herself against these claims. We encourage Ms. Meltzer to continue to cooperate with law enforcement, including the Attorney General of Georgia, who we understand is investigating the perpetrators responsible for this crime, and to seek the return of any funds remaining in the recipient’s bank account. “.
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