Wire Fraud Realty, Protecting Your Money
One guarantee in home buying or selling is that at some point during the transaction a large amount of money is going to exchange hands. Earnest money must be deposited into an escrow account, the buyer must pay a down payment, the seller must pay off their mortgage lender. The upside is that most of these transactions can be done electronically through a wire transfer, rather than having to write a check or procure a cashier’s check. However, electronic transfer of funds is not without its risks and downsides. Wire fraud is rampant, but there are several simple, straightforward steps you can take to protect yourself (and your money) from falling victim to a scam. With a little due diligence, your money will be transferred safely.
- Never send money to anyone claiming to be involved in your real estate transaction without verifying their identity. Double check the sender’s email address to verify where the request for money is coming from. Then call the company directly to verify the request and what the funds are for. Call phone numbers that are listed on their website; phone numbers sent through a scam email will direct your call to fake numbers.
- If you receive a phone call asking for money, do not share or verify any personal information. If the phone call is coming from a scammer, they could be trying to collect identifying information that could be used to hack into your personal accounts. Instead, hang up and call the company back by dialing the number listed on their website. Do not return a phone call to an unknown number.
- When you receive a request for wired funds, always call to ask that the company verify the specific amount, rather than asking them if the specific number is correct. If the request is valid, the company will be able to give you a matching number.
- Always confirm the amount, the name on the account, and the account number before sending money to ensure it makes it to the correct recipient. Once sent, verify with the recipient that the funds were received.
- Be on the lookout for red flags in emails, such as misspelled words, grammatical errors, or vague language like “I work with your real estate agent” (rather than specifying the name of the agent).
Wire fraud is an unfortunate risk of a real estate transaction, no matter which side of the contract you’re on. While many people believe they’d recognize a scam from a mile away, the fact is that scammers are getting smarter and more sly every day. The good news? If you take these easy steps to verify the identity on the other end of a phone call, email or wire transfer, your money will remain in good hands.