Imagine the sinking feeling you would have if you found out the enormous sum of money you just wired to buy a home was sent not to the the real estate title company but to criminals. Unfortunately, real estate wire fraud is is on the rise, with 11,300 victims in 2018, according to the FBI.
How Does Real Estate Wire Fraud Happen?
Criminals sometimes create email addresses that look nearly identical to the addresses of real estate professionals you are working with. For example, they replace the letter “o” with a zero. Other times, they hack into the email account of a real estate or title company professional.
When the fraudster finds clues that your real estate closing is approaching, he sends you an email with bank wiring instructions to an account he controls.
What Can You do to Protect Yourself?
Be vigilant and suspicious. Don’t follow wiring instructions you receive via email without verifying them by phone—or even in person—with someone you know and trust. Don’t call phone numbers or click links that arrive by email; use a phone number or web address you locate independently. Verify with the title company that your funds were received as soon as you’ve made the transfer.
What if You Suspect You Sent Your Money to Criminals?
The sooner you notify authorities, the better your chance of recovering your money. Contact your bank and request that they recall your wire funds. You should also contact your regional FBI office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, and your local police department.
Learn more from the Coalition to Stop Wire Fraud
You also can talk with your REALTOR® well before closing to go over ways to ensure your funds don’t end up in the wrong hands.