First there was a steady string of fraud relating to cashier’s checks, now wire fraud is sadly the norm when speaking about a real estate transaction.
According the FBI internet cyber crimes department, since 2016 more than 26 billion dollars have been lost as a result wire fraud. Because we do not want one of our clients or potential clients become the next wire fraud victim we ask you to keep reading and pay very close attention.
HOW DOES WIRE FRAUD HAPPEN?
The recent increase in wire fraud is a result of a phishing scam which targets email accounts. Attackers hack an email account, sit back and closely monitor the account using real estate related activity keywords. Once they spot a legitimate email from a real estate professional, mortgage lender, title company or a closing attorney, they quickly duplicate the email making a few minor tweaks to the recipients account number and call attention to a last minute update to wiring instructions in the newer email. As the recipient of the second email, you may not even realize the second email is a scam because these attackers are REALLY DARN GOOD. Once your funds are wired to the incorrect account number and recipient, it could result in a complete loss of funds unless the FBI steps in within minutes after the wire being initiated. The best way to prevent your account from being hacked is to change your email password often, not use a password that you’ve used for other accounts and always verify before sending any funds via wire transfer. This will not entirely eliminate the risk, but it will surely limit your exposure.
COMMON RED FLAGS?
- A new email with changes or updates to wire details you previously received via email.
- A first message with wiring instructions or a message to “resend” or “verify” instructions could also be fraudulent.
If you are ever asked to send funds via wire transfer to anyone and receive the wiring instructions via email real estate related or not, we urge your to follow these steps:
- Contact the recipient and verify the wiring instructions verbally. Never should you wire any funds based on the instructions in an email unless verbally verified first.
- Be sure the phone number you are verifying the wiring instructions is a valid phone number for the title company or the attorney’s office for your respective closing.
- NEVER assume the number from the email you received is the accurate number for the title company or attorney’s office.
- Immediately after wiring the funds, call the title company or attorney’s office to confirm the wire was received.
- If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to wire fraud, contact your bank and the FBI immediately. The sooner you take action, the chances your funds can be recovered.