Blog posted On October 28, 2020
It’s hard to believe that October is almost over. Holiday fever is heating up, fall air is cooling down, and candy stocks are running low. If you haven’t voted yet, you still have time; but if you haven’t gotten your Halloween candy yet, you’re probably going to be that house handing out mint gum and stale Oreos. Luckily, trick or treat isn’t the threat it used to be – at least on the streets. On the web, however, tricksters are on the rise.
Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing criminal threats in the United States, and one of the fastest growing cybercrimes is real estate wire fraud. Real estate wire fraud often happens when criminals fake the identity of the title company, real estate agent, or closing attorney and send an email to the home buyer with instructions on how and where to transfer their money electronically. This year alone, over $220 million has been stolen from home buyers – over a 40% increase from 2018.
“In certain [housing] markets, you could lose tens of millions of dollars with one sale,” says FBI financial crimes section chief, Steven Merrill. According to the FBI, most of this money is lost forever, often ending up in foreign countries, and rarely does it find its way back to the original owners. For some owners, this costs them a future.
“They stole a lot of financial security from us. They stole a future that could have been, a future that involved a house that we were going to live in, a future that might involve some more financial security for our children, and the ability to reduce college costs and not saddle our kids with debt,” lamented Aaron Fisher, a recent wire fraud victim for nearly $1 million.
The bottom line is when it comes to wire fraud, prevention is key. Protecting yourself from wire fraud can be as simple as taking a closer look at emails or talking to your loan officer on the phone. Here are four more ways you can protect yourself from cyberattacks and wire fraud hacks in under five minutes.
Pay attention to detail
When receiving an email from a title company, closing attorney, real estate agent, or lender, pay close attention to the sender’s email address. Often, fraudsters will change only one letter from the real email address, making it easy to miss with a quick glance. Be aware of any emails notifying you that the wiring instructions for the title company or attorney have changed. Instructions rarely change last-minute, and if they do, your attorney or title company should notify you by phone.
Confirm instructions verbally
Always verify wiring instructions verbally, whether on the phone or face-to-face. You should receive this confirmation from someone you trust and have been working with throughout the home buying process such as your real estate agent, attorney, or loan officer. Never accept wiring instructions via email.
Double check wiring information
Before making the final transfer, ensure that the wiring information is correct for whomever is receiving the funds. Again, verify this information verbally with someone who you know and trust. Don’t wait until the time of closing to ask for this information, or you might face closing delays.
Play it safe
The best way to avoid wire fraud risks is paying for your down payment and closing costs with a certified check. However, if you have any questions or hesitations about your wiring transfer, let us know. We’re here for you in every step of the home loan process, and we want you to feel as comfortable and confident as possible.
We value open and ongoing communication because our utmost priority is you. If you are concerned about your transaction and the possibility of wire transfer fraud, please contact our fraud department immediately.
Sources: CNBC, Forbes, National Association of Realtors