Protecting Yourself Against Wire Fraud
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, worldwide losses from scams involving false wire transfer instructions amounted to more than $1 billion in just an 18 month period, and most of the losses were in the U.S. The real estate industry is a big target of wire transfer fraud since large amounts of money are involved before a closing. Unfortunately, the money wired during these scams is typically unrecoverable.
This is a typical scenario that occurs: The Buyer will get an email from a “real estate agent” or “title company” where the wiring instructions have been altered. The Buyer then wires the money, but later finds out that the title company has not received the funds for settlement and the Buyer is out thousands of dollars to a thief. On the Seller side, the title company will get a request via the Seller’s email to wire money to a different account than previously given. Later to find out, it was not a valid request.
Hackers are getting a hold of information by monitoring emails and following information about transactions online via MLS services or in the public records. They are then sending emails out requesting a last-minute change to the wiring instructions or requesting a swift code which would mean that the wire would be going overseas. Many consumers believe these changes are coming from a valid source.
What preventative measures can you take?
- From day one, work with your agent on how you will be communicating with them throughout the real estate transaction and how and other parties involved in the transaction (i.e. title company and lenders) will be contacting them. We at the Steve Jacobson Group will contact you through phone and via email, but we will never ask for any banking account or income information. Be aware anyone you are working with during your transaction should never ask that they send sensitive information via email.
- Prior to having your funds wired, be sure contact the intended recipient of the wire and confirm that the wire information is accurate.
- Do not open suspicious emails. If you do happen to open an email that looks suspicious, do not click on any links, open any attachments or reply to the email.
- Clean out your email on a daily basis and save important emails to a secure location most likely on the server or in a file on your personal computer.
- Be sure to never save sensitive materials or documents on a work computer or on a computer that can be publicly accessed.
- Never use public WiFi to access your private emails or documents that contain banking, real estate or financial information.
- Make sure to change your usernames and passwords frequently and never use passwords that are easy to guess like “password” or “123456”.
- Make sure you have anti-virus technologies installed and have an up-to-date firewall.
- The title company you are using should send the instructions via a Secured Email or you should call them directly.
- Always double check and verify the phone number contained in the email for the intended recipient of the wire.
If you do find that your email has been hacked into or compromised, make sure to do the following things:
- Immediately change all your usernames and passwords.
- Contact any one that may have been involved during this time. Your agent, title company and lender to start.
- Report the fraudulent activity to the FBI: www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scam
- Your Realtor will report any fraudulent activity to the state and local REALTOR® associations so they can spread the word.
How the Steve Jacobson Group Works to Protect You!
I and the Steve Jacobson Group always works closely with the title company to insure best and safest practices when it comes to your money and transaction.
- We will never send you wiring instructions! If you receive wiring instructions that indicate that they are from our company alert us immediately and the call title company! We will contact the FBI to make a report as should you.
- We will never ask for your bank information!
- Payoff requirements are different for all banks, but most require a social security number. We will always ask that you call the title company directly to provide that information.
I am here to help you through your transaction in the best and safest way. My years of experience have granted me with insights that most Realtors and agents don’t have. I have personally been involved in more transactions that 99% of the agents currently working in Denver. Call me today and let your dreams become a reality in a safe and secure environment.