Hackers stole $10.5 million from a Richardson real estate software company with the help of “money mules” – dozens of Americans who unwittingly accepted fraudulent money into their accounts, transferred it to those behind the scheme, and kept a cut for themselves, according to court documents.
The company, RealPage, contacted the Dallas office of the U.S. Secret Service about a computer intrusion in May 2018 after hackers, possibly from Nigeria, obtained the login credentials of an employee and accessed the company’s online financial accounts, according to a summary of the investigation included in a federal seizure document.
A Secret Service agent said the hackers are unknown but in at least one case, an American “money mule” was instructed to transfer the money to a Nigerian account.
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Investigators said they tracked the stolen money to 88 different accounts at 42 banks nationwide.
“The investigation to date has revealed a large network of money mules who have been communicating by telephone and internet with individuals whom they thought were legitimate businesses or entrepreneurs sending funds that were proceeds of business or real estate transactions,” the agent wrote.
The mules were from New York, California, Florida, Georgia, Texas and other states.
In one example, a Tyler woman received $103,000 in her bank account. She told agents she was supposed to electronically transfer $100,000 to an account in Nigeria and keep $3,000 for herself.
RealPage, based in Richardson, describes itself on its website as a "leading global provider of software and data analytics to the real estate industry" and said it has more than 12,000 clients with offices on three continents.
The Secret Service, in addition to protecting the president and other officials, investigates complex financial crimes and counterfeiting.
Nobody has been charged criminally in the case.
It took RealPage 20 days to realize that hackers had gained access to its computer network through a phishing attack after an employee clicked on an email that appeared to be legitimate, the agent said.
"RealPage worked closely with law enforcement to successfully freeze a portion of the funds that were fraudulently misdirected," the company said in a statement.
RealPage added it is pleased that federal prosecutors have seized over $2.9 million of the stolen money and the company is working to reclaim it.
In a financial filing last year, the company said it had received a $1 million insurance payment and suffered a net loss of $6 million in what it described as a "business email compromise."
NBC 5's Don Peritz contributed to this report.