Avoiding Wire Transfer Fraud
Buying a home can be an exciting and fulfilling experience. It also tends to be one of the most expensive purchases someone makes in a lifetime. Home buyers may spend years saving for the down payment on a home. Once the transaction is in process, it can be financially devastating to lose those down payment funds to wire transfer fraud. It is imperative for real estate professionals and consumers to remain aware when transferring large sums of money.
The FBI reports that the number of fraud complaints to title companies surged 480% in 2016, with down payment wire transfer fraud ranking as the 16th most frequently reported complaint totaling 12,005 annual complaints. However, this fraudulent activity amounted to first place in dollar losses, with an annual total of over $360 million.
One of the best ways for consumers to protect themselves when undergoing a wire transfer is to call and verify with the title company or other recipient. An easy way for hackers to target consumers is through scam emails with misleading transfer instructions. One red flag, identified by MarketWatch, would be the real estate agent including an account number in a wire-transfer email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Association of Realtors (NAR) issued a warning stating: “If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that.”
If you believe you or your client is a victim of wire transfer fraud, the sooner it gets reported, the better. Victims of cybercrime should report the scam to their regional FBI office and should also file an online complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC.