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Buyers Beware: Wire Transfer Fraud is Real

When you’re looking to buy a home, you want to make sure you’re protected. Buying a home is a huge investment and the last thing you need is some scam artist stealing your hard-earned money. 

You’ve spent countless hours working to save for your down payment. Don’t let selfish thieves take away your savings by falling for one of the wire transfer fraud tactics they use. 

Before starting the home buying process, be aware of the ways you can protect yourself. Here are some of the things you should understand about wire transfer fraud when buying a house. 

How Does Wire Transfer Fraud Happen? 

The most common type of wire transfer fraud happens when you receive a fake email, click on the link, and your information is stolen. Malicious software called malware is used to compromise a realtor’s or real estate company’s email account. The sent co-opted email that looks legitimate as if it were from your real estate agent’s account. Often, the spoofed email you receive will arrive near the day of your home closing. The criminal will attempt to get you to wire your down payment funds to a fraudulent offshore account. 

There are other ways it can happen, too, but phishing emails have become one of the main sources for thieves to get your information. 

In some cases, the criminals will even call their victims acting as a representative from the title company or the law firm. They will reassure the homebuyer the wire transfer request is real and if they make the transfer, the money is gone for good. 

How to Prevent Wire Transfer Fraud When Buying a Home 

There are many ways to make sure you’re protected from wire transfer fraud when buying a home. With the rising cases of this type of crime, it all starts with being aware you could be targeted. Don’t adopt an attitude that it won’t happen to you because it really could happen to you. 

Along with becoming aware of the possibility of wire transfer fraud, you should take the following steps: 

  • Set Up Voice Verify – While it may seem like another annoying step in the home buying process, voice verify can help protect you. Speak with your bank and ask them not to allow any wire transfers without first going through a voice verification process with you. 
  • Avoid Reacting to Emails Immediately – Whenever you receive an email asking you to take action and it comes from someone involved in the real estate transaction, don’t react immediately. Have your guard up and be suspicious of all emails you receive asking you to act. Call the person sending the email to confirm they sent it before sending any money or documents. 
  • Don’t Send Financial Information Via Email – Email isn’t secure enough to be trusted with banking information or other financial information. Don’t send this information via email. 
  • Opt for Account Alerts – If your bank offers digital account alerts, make sure you sign up for the alert program. This can help you stay proactive and take immediate action if something happens on your account and you didn’t do it. 

When you’re proactive, you are less likely to fall victim to the scams of wire transfer. 

What to Look For With Wire Transfer Fraud 

There are many things you can do to protect yourself from wire transfer fraud. Knowing what to look for when you receive an email during a real estate transaction can certainly help. 

Some of the things to look for include: 

  • The sender wants a response at a generic email address, such as a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account 
  • Sender asks for money to be sent somewhere different at the last minute 
  • Hover over any links to see the actual URL behind them, spoofed emails usually have URLs that don’t match the text 
  • Look for inconsistencies in email addresses, domain names, and email signatures 
  • Urgent language is often used by scammers in wire transfer fraud cases 
  • Wire instructions don’t match what’s posted on the title company, settlement company, or closing agent’s website 

With every email you receive during a real estate transaction, you need to be cautious. Look over the email and never send money without calling the title company to confirm the account numbers. 

Always verify emails sent asking for money by calling a phone number you know is correct, not the number in the email as it could be fake. 

What to do if You’ve Already Sent the Money 

If you believe you were scammed, you need to take immediate action. Time is not on your side and the faster you act, the better your chances of not losing your hard-earned money. 

Contact your bank first and inform them of the situation, they will be your best defense in damage control. Notify your real estate agent as they may be able to provide additional help during the chaos. You can also contact your local FBI office to report the potential wire transfer fraud. 

In some cases, you have less than an hour to act. If you act quickly, you might be able to stop the wire transfer before it’s sent. However, if you wait, you might be dealing with a nightmare situation. 

Wire transfer fraud is a huge issue and it happens all the time. Homebuyers are a big-time target because the payoff for the criminal is much larger compared to other potential scams. Don’t fall victim to wire transfer fraud. 

Use the information above to protect yourself from losing your life savings. Remain skeptical of any emails you receive asking you to send money and always verify with the person before you make any wire transfer. 

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