Protect Yourself from Wire Fraud

Cyber scams are increasing in number and effectiveness each day. One that has greatly affected the real estate industry over the past few years is wire fraud. 

What is Wire Fraud?

Similar to mail fraud, wire fraud involves some form of telecommunications such as a phone call, fax, email, text, or social media messaging, among many other forms. 

Wire Fraud in Real Estate

Say you are in the process of purchasing a home. It’s time to wire your funds to the title company. You follow the directions in the email and complete the wire transfer. Then, you find out the email was fraudulent, and your money went to a scammer instead of the title company. Most wire transfers are irreversible, and now your funds are gone. 

It’s a scary experience that unfortunately happens to thousands of people each year. In fact, we read somewhere that the FBI reported 13,638 cases of real estate wire fraud in 2020, leading to losses of more than $213 million. 

How Can You Avoid Wire Fraud?

#1 Be Skeptical 

If your wiring instructions change from your initial escrow wiring instructions, or the instructions do not match the name of the title company, these are red flags. 

#2 Talk on the Phone

This is standard practice for most title companies nowadays. They will instruct you to call them for the complete title instructions, or they will reach out to you directly. Scammers know this, so be leary of emails asking you to call because your instructions have changed. 

#3 Learn to Spot Fraudulent Emails 

Check that the name and email address in the “from” address line matches that of the title company. Any grammatical errors, misspellings, and odd capitalization are red flags. 

#4 Wire Over The Phone

Do not click any links in your email and fill out your wiring information via the web. Call your bank directly and they will walk you through the steps and ask you questions that will help spot signs of wire fraud. 

#5 Follow Up After Transfer

Your bank will provide you with a Federal Reference Number once your transfer is complete. This is your “tracking” number which you can provide the title company if they do not see your incoming wire transfer. 

We hope these few tips will help you practice safe and secure wire transfers during the real estate sales process. Of course, if you have any questions, we’re here to help! Please don’t hesitate to reach out, 239-472-1950 or [email protected].

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