Avoiding Wire Fraud When Closing On A Real Estate Deal
Owning a home is part of the American dream and is an exciting time for home buyers. But as buyers are preparing to get the keys to their new home, hackers and cyber thieves are looking to turn their dream into a nightmare. Wire fraud scams are a growing problem that can cost a home buyer a huge financial loss. In this post I am using the term “settlement agency” to also refer to the office of the “closing attorney”.
According to American Land Title Association, here are some best practices to help protect your clients:
Call, don’t email: Always confirm all wiring instructions with the settlement agency, and your bank, by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone number from the settlement agency’s website or a business card.
Be suspicious: It’s not common for settlement agencies to change wiring instructions and payment information. Call your settlement agency directly if a “change in wiring instructions” is sent to you, and be sure you are talking to someone you know is really there.
Confirm it all: Ask the recipient (the settlement agency) to confirm not just the account number but also the name on the account before sending a wire.
Verify immediately: Call the settlement agency to validate that the funds were received. If you detect that the money was sent to the wrong account within 24 hours, it 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 REAL email addresses it makes it easier for you to discover if someone is trying to commit fraud.
Report Immediately: If you feel you have been a victim of wire fraud, call your bank immediately and issue a recall notice for the wire transfer and report the crime to www.IC3.gov