A common way to transfer large sums of money from one party to another is via wire transfer, particularly for real estate transactions. And why not? It’s quick, it’s direct, it’s…being targeted by wire fraud criminals?
Yes, the same kinds of criminals who snatch credit card numbers and identities are now targeting the mother load of all digital heists—your real estate transaction. Even some of the cheaper real estate deals commonly place in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, making them a desirable target for these cyber criminals.
But how do they do it? Surely no one would be foolhardy enough to release such vital information to a complete stranger or in a public forum.
Remember what we said about these criminals being the same kind as those who steal identities? That’s exactly how they prefer to commit wire fraud. After infecting your real estate agent, attorney, or title agent’s email with undetectable malware, they keep a close eye on your communication until it’s almost time to close. Then they assume the identity of your trusted agent and send you a very official-looking email with new wiring instructions, saying that there’s been a last minute change. A blatant warning sign is when they demand immediate action.
Worse yet, some of these criminals will actually call you, posing as someone from your title company to assure you that the wire transfer request is legitimate. And unlike fraud relating to bank accounts and credit cards, banks will not reimburse you for funds that were stolen via wire fraud, making it an even more devastating loss.
However, there are ways to thwart wire fraud. If you receive an email containing wiring instructions, call your real estate agent and/or title company using numbers that come directly from their website or another credible source, not ones provided via email. They’ll be able to verify whether the wire request is valid or not.
In addition, some banks will allow you to set up security measures such as voice verification and other extra steps to thwart fraud. Above all, it’s important to be vigilant. Buying or selling real estate can be a complicated business, but don’t ever let yourself be pressured into sending a wire without proper verification.
At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.
In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: How Do I Get a Discount on My Title Insurance?