Protecting Yourself Against Wire Fraud
Technology is a wonderful thing until it’s used by the wrong people for the wrong purposes to defraud honest, hardworking people. Real estate wire fraud targets homebuyers making wire transfer payments when buying their home. This devious practice aims to defraud individuals of their money under the guise of completing their purchase. Unfortunately, real estate wire fraud is on the rise. Notably, the FBI reports there has been an 1100% increase in the reported number of victims and nearly a 2200% increase in lost money since 2015. Here’s what you need to know about wire fraud and steps you can take to protect yourself.
What Does Real Estate Wire Fraud Look Like?
Though it can occur through phishing texts and automated calls, typically a homebuyer receives an email from the perpetrator pretending to be either a real estate professional or the title agency involved in the transaction. Email is a convenient vehicle for wire fraud because it provides criminals with an easy way to anonymously imitate another’s communications once they’ve stolen your email login credentials using malware. The fraudulent email includes instructions for wire transfer payments of either down payment or closing costs, which unwitting buyers often send direction in a criminal’s bank account. Unfortunately, there is no insurance for wire fraud and once the money leaves your account it’s difficult to get back.
Steps to Ensure Valid Wire Instructions from Title Company
It can be difficult or impossible to distinguish genuine emails from fraudulent ones, so the best defense is a good offense and verify information before sending money. Please remember, no one at Giorgi & Bonomo will ever provide you with wire instructions; rather, you’ll be directed instead to call the title company directly and can write down verbal directions. If you suspect fraud, contact your bank immediately to determine if any accounts were compromised and, if so, establish new ones.
Here are some good practices to ensure you are less susceptible to malware hacking or attempts of wire fraud by criminals:
- Always call your attorney, title company, or lender prior to transferring any funds to verify the instruction you received. Be sure to look up the contact information yourself to verify its accuracy; a fraudulent email containing wire instructions may also contain fraudulent contact information designed to trick you into believing the instructions are genuine.
- Never discuss personal financial information via email.
- Avoid using free Wi-Fi that other unknown individuals can also access
- Use an email account with layers of authentication – Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail accounts usually require no additional forms of verification and are more likely targets for hackers.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- If possible, use encryption.
Contact a Real Estate Attorney Today
As a home buyer, you’re used to doing research – you’ve researched houses, lenders, real estate agents, and perhaps even real estate attorneys. However, it’s also good to have help verifying the information and protecting yourself from attempts to defraud you and take your money. For help with ensuring your transaction goes smoothly and answers to your questions, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at Giorgi & Bonomo. We’ve been providing diligent, comprehensive representation buyers and sellers in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area for years and will look out for your best interests as well. Contact us 24/7 at (800)-510-2685 or complete our online Contact Page for help today.