Tips to Avoid Wire Transfer Fraud
When buying or selling a home, most people enlist the support of a title company to handle details like performing title searches, issuing title insurance policies, preparing the deed and other documents for closing, assisting with the signing of the documents and managing the money that exchanges hands. Money is needed to cover the purchase of the home, the seller’s mortgage(s) and closing costs. Today, it is easy to transfer money to title companies electronically to cover these expenses; however, just because it is easy does not mean it’s foolproof.
Unfortunately, wire transfer fraud is a risk and there are plenty of crooks out there who can trick you into sending your money to a fake account. In short, there are crooks out there who may be trying to steal your money – the money you have earmarked to purchase your dream home. They can even try to steal the proceeds you are supposed to receive on the sale of your home.
How Wire Transfer Fraud Works
Criminals find people who are involved in a real estate transaction by whatever unscrupulous means possible (hacking your email account, stealing your login information, gathering information via phone, etc.). Then they send you an email under the guise that they are with your title company. They give instructions in the email on where to send your money for the real estate transaction. Instead of that money going into a secure account for the correct purposes, it is delivered to the crook’s bank account. Often it is quickly moved from that account into an off-shore account. Money that is stolen via this method is often very difficult to get back.
If you have not done your due diligence to make sure the wire transfer information is legitimate, you may lose a very large sum of money.
How to Avoid this Scenario
The main tip to avoid becoming a victim in this scam is to VERIFY every single request before taking action.
- If you receive an email from what appears to be your title company – and they are asking for you to send money to a new account – call the title company directly before taking any action. Do not respond to the email and don’t open any of the links in the email. Do not call the phone number included in the email. Instead, go online (or use your local phone book) and look up the actual number of your title company to make sure you are calling the legitimate source.
- Criminals may also contact you via phone. If you do not know the person on the other end or if the call seems suspicious, do not share any personal information. Instead, hang up and call the title company directly.
- Ask your title company if they have sent an email and ask them to verify the amount that should be transferred and the location it should be transferred to.
- Ask your title company and your bank to confirm the account number and the name on the account.
After you transfer the funds, contact your title company again to ensure that the funds have been received.
Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- The email you receive from the alleged title company uses generic wording such as, “I’m with your closing agency.”
- The email has misspelled words.
- The message uses words like urgent and changes the original wire transfer instructions.
These scammers are very thorough. They create emails that can seem very legitimate! It’s not common for title companies to change wire transfer information mid-way through a home sale – especially if the message you are receiving has an unfamiliar tone or greeting. Always err on the side of caution and call your title company directly to verify the information.
Already a Victim?
Call your bank immediately if you think you have been victimized by wire transfer fraud in Florida. Alert your local police and FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
Buying or Selling a Home in Florida? Contact Clear Title!
Clear Title is a title company in Northwest Florida that will help you understand the closing process. The owner of Clear Title is Stephen R. Moorhead, a Board Certified Real Estate Attorney who is Board Certified in Real Estate Law. He fully understands the importance of helping clients know the pitfalls of home buying/selling.
With 100s of years of combined experience, the team at Clear Title can help make homebuying and selling a smooth process. To schedule a meeting with our experts and explore our Pensacola title and escrow services, contact us today at (850) 202-8518 or visit ClearTitlenwfl.com.