Criminals are targeting home buyers across the country, stealing money meant for the purchase of homes. Wire fraud is becoming more common and has cost some buyer’s their life savings. Here’s what it is and how to protect your real estate transaction.
What It Is & How It Works
Criminals begin the wire fraud process way before the attempted theft occurs. Most often, they being with a common social engineering technique called phishing. This can take the form of email messages, website forms or phone calls to fraudulently obtain private information. Through seemingly harmless communication, criminals trick users into inputting their information or clicking a link that allows hackers to steal login and password information.
Once hackers gain access to an email account, they will monitor messages to find someone in the process of buying a home. Hacks can come from various parties involved in the transaction, including real estate agents, title companies, attorneys, or the buyer/seller. Criminals then use the stolen information to email fraudulent wire transfer instructions disguised to appear as if they came from a professional you’re working with to purchase a home. If you receive an email with wiring instructions, don’t respond. Email is NOT a secure way to send financial information. If you take the bait, your money could be gone in minutes.
What Can I Do To Protect Myself?
Despite efforts by the title industry and others to educate consumers about the risk, home buyers continue to be targeted. Here are some tips on what you can do to protect yourself.
Call Don’t Email – Confirm all wiring instructions by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone # from the title company’s website or use a business card.
Be Suspicious – It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment info
Confirm It All – Ask your bank to confirm not just the account number but also the name on the account before sending a wire.
Verify Immediately – You should call the title company to validate the funds were received. Detecting that you sent the money to the wrong account within 24 hours gives you the best chance of recovering your money.
Forward, Don’t Reply – When responding to an email, hit forward instead of reply and then start typing in the person’s email address. Criminals use email addresses that are very similar to the real one for a company. By typing in email addresses you will make it easier to discover if a fraudster is after you.
Wire fraud costs between $30 & $50 Billion per year and the average loss is $65,000 per instance