It’s your worst nightmare as a buyer: one minute, everything is a go for purchasing the house of your dreams and the next, the entire down payment is gone with little hope in getting it back. This nightmare, known as wire fraud, has happened across the country to buyers who have fallen prey to a phishing scam resulting in losses of hundreds of millions dollars with devastating results for those in the process of purchasing a home.
The way this scam works is hackers target email and other accounts with messages relating to real estate activities, collecting contacts/email address of those in the process of buying a property. The scammer then spoofs an email to the buyer, often pretending to be an agent, title company, etc., directing them on where to wire their down payment. For those unfortunate buyers who follow through, they are out their down payment with little chance of ever getting it back.
The key to avoiding fraud is to know what to look for and be diligent about avoiding the traps. Here are a few simple steps to follow during the buying process to help stop scammers in their tracks:
- Pay attention to how your wire instructions are sent. It is best to only accept instructions that are secure/encrypted.
- Before you wire funds to an individual or company, call to verify the wire instructions independently with your title company or closing agent.
- Be very wary of changes. Wire instructions very rarely change, so if you receive an email stating they have, be very diligent in confirming the validity of it independently with your agent or title company.
The best defense against this type of scam is having multiple checkpoints with your title company and agent to ensure everything you are being instructed to do is legit – and phone is best, just make sure you’re talking to the right person. And your Realty Executives agent is here to help at every step of the process. While these checks might feel like overkill, it’s better to spend a little extra diligence to ensure your money is secure!