Wire transfer fraud crimes are on the rise, and home buyers are increasingly at risk. With cyber-criminal scams that frequently target real estate transactions, it’s crucial that you identify red flags to avoid getting scammed.
Email hacking is a tool that criminals used to lure their victims into the scam. Hackers often monitor email exchanges between parties in a real estate transaction to gain personal information such as your name, address, file or account numbers.
As you near your closing date and prepare to wire money for the sale, scammers may attempt to contact you or your real estate agent via email claiming the wire instructions have changed. Typically, the email address will appear similar to legitimate email accounts you have previously messaged. Additionally, the email may initially seem reasonable because it contains personal information.
Ways to Prevent Wire Fraud
Be Alert: Watch out for unfamiliar phishing emails with links and attachments. Hackers use these tools to gain access to your personal data and login information. Email spoofing is a common tactic used in wire fraud campaigns, so if you receive a message containing new or revised Wire Transfer Instructions, immediately call your escrow officer to verify prior to sending funds.
Slow down: Scammers gain an advantage by pressuring you to take action without confirming it with other people. Wire Transfer Instructions with tight deadlines or last-minute changes are fraud red flags.
Spot the Red Flags:
Unsecured email address: Always confirm instruction by calling a verified phone number
Refusal to discuss via phone: Criminals who send fraudulent emails will refuse to discuss last-minute changes over the phone.
Poor grammar and incorrect spelling: Many scammers are “off-shore” and English is not their first language.
Repeated requests to keep the transaction “confidential” or “secret.”
A new deal out-of-nowhere: Be suspicious of messages with a new contract or request for earnest money.
Call and Confirm: Always ask your bank to affirm all of the essential details before sending a wire transfer. This includes confirming the account number and account name. You also want to confirm the transfer details with a phone call to the title company verify you have the correct wire instructions.
Verify Immediately: Contact the title company promptly after transferring the funds to confirm they were received.
If you think that someone may be trying to scam you, contact your broker immediately to alert them. Report any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.