Home Buyers: Beware the Dangers of Wire Fraud
You have saved money for months for the down payment on your pending home purchase. You have found an amazing home for your family. You secured financing and received a clean title report. The closing is a week away and you receive an email from someone with a similar email to your lender or attorney containing wire instructions to a financial institution that you do not recognize. Should you question these instructions? The answer is YES!
Wire fraud has become a very real threat and is on the rise. Protect yourself. Anyone could be the next target including buyers, sellers, agents, title companies and lenders as well as attorneys. Therefore, it is imperative to understand and recognize the potential threats so that you can protect yourself and your investment.
Hackers and scam artists are constantly producing new scams and phishing schemes. They know how to hack into email accounts to gather information about the parties and transaction in order to have the information necessary to create the scam. In order to avoid becoming a victim, you should always call or meet with your attorney to confirm the procedure and instructions on any email containing wiring instructions. The attorney should verbally confirm the instructions with the sender to ensure that the information is correct and the instructions are legitimate. Once a wire has been sent it is almost impossible to recover so prior confirmation is imperative.
Most hackers and scam artists send wiring instructions via email. You should always check the email address for legitimacy. There have been cases where the email address used to perpetuate the scam is very similar to an individual connected with the transaction. It is also critical to look for correct company logos, misspellings, unusual words and strange font or text size. Other self-protection strategies include avoiding free web-based email accounts and being cautious about what personal information you post to social media. Do not open spam email or click on links or attachments that are suspicious or from untrustworthy sources.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has set up an Internet Crime Complaint Center to address these scams. In a Public Service Announcement issued in May 2017, the FBI set forth a detailed list of steps to take to protect yourself from being a victim as well as what to do in the event you are a victim of wire fraud. Your new home is the place to make happy memories so protect yourself and your real estate investment against wire fraud.