Protect yourself from wire fraud

Posted by Haval Abbas on Friday, March 2nd, 2018 at 3:18pm.

scam alert wire fraud real estate

As we kick off the spring selling season, many of our clients are thinking about buying or selling a home.

Completing the purchase or sale is one of the most exciting moments in that process. After you sign all the closing documents, money is transferred from the buyer to the seller, and buyers receive the keys to the new home.

Unfortunately, criminal hackers have found a way to insert themselves into the process and ruin it for everyone. While identity theft is always a risk, the latest development specifically targets real estate closings. Hackers are successfully accessing the email accounts and document management systems of Mortgage Lenders, Title Companies and Real Estate agents across the country with the intent to commit wire fraud.

If they’re able to access details about an upcoming real estate transaction, they may impersonate the owner of the email account and send messages that look legitimate, but contain fraudulent wiring instructions to divert the your funds to their own accounts, where they'll be immediately withdrawn or transferred and lost forever.

What you need to know:

  • If you wire funds to the wrong account, in most cases, the funds cannot be recovered. 
  • Most real estate transactions can be closed with a Cashier's Check. Wire transfers are not required, and in fact, we recommend against them.
  • You should never send sensitive personal or financial information in an email or attachment to anyone involved in your transaction.
  • If you are asked by phone or email to share your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number, wiring instructions or other sensitive information, you should independently verify the requesting party’s identity through a secondary means. 
    • If the information is requested by phone, make sure the caller is calling from their actual number; in other words, assume that the call you receive could be from a hacker, and instead call the company yourself via a published phone number that you know to be correct.
    • If the information is being requested by email or mail, call the requesting person at a phone number you know to be correct.
  • Before wiring funds to any party in a transaction, you should personally call them to confirm their routing and account numbers.
  • If you see anything that looks suspicious, please report it immediately.

To learn more, check out recent news from CNBC and Chicago Tribune, or watch this video and read this article from the National Association of REALTORS. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and take appropriate steps to protect yourself and your investments.

If you have questions about an upcoming closing with us, or you're considering a purchase and want to learn more about the homebuying process, contact us today.



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