How Wire Fraud Happens
It seems so simple:
Your real estate agent sends you an email and asks you to send money to an account. You were expecting it—it was time for the down payment or to send the needed funds to close the transaction.
Cybercriminals are Monitoring:
But what you didn’t know was that a sophisticated cybercriminal, faked an email because they knew you were ready to buy a house. Maybe they saw a Facebook post you made or hacked someone’s computer system, but they knew you were ready to send money.
Wire Fraud is Initiated:
Real estate wire fraud is a sophisticated scam targeting individuals performing wire transfer payments. Often, emails will be a letter off, or similarly misleading, from the actual account and request the wire transfer. As an example, an email from Bank 101 was sent from jane.doe@bank701 instead of jane.doe@bank101.
Unknowingly, targets will then send wire transfers to the criminal’s account.
Call don’t email: Confirm your wiring instructions by phone using a known number before transferring funds. Don’t use phone numbers or links from an email.
Be suspicious: It’s uncommon for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment info by email.
Forward, don’t reply: When responding to an email, hit forward instead of reply and then start typing in the person’s email address. Criminals use email address that are very similar to the real one for a company. By typing in email addresses, you will make it easier to discover if a fraudster is after you.
Protect Your Money
Confirm everything: Ask your bank to confirm the name on the account before sending a wire.
Verify immediately: Call the title company or real estate agent to validate that the funds were received. The sooner it is detected that money has been sent to a wrong account, the better chance you have of recovering the money.
Tips for professionals
- Warn Early and Often:Make sure your clients know about the growing and looming threat of real estate wire transfer fraud.
- Educate:Remind your client that you will not send changes to wiring instructions or payment information
- Call:Tell your client to call you to confirm all wiring instructions, and soon after they make any wire transfers.
- Create:Within your company, establish a rapid response plan for wire fraud incidents. Here are the steps to create your plan:
- Step 1:Alert company management and your internal wire fraud response team.
- Step 2:Report Fraudulent Wire Transfers to the Sending and Receiving Banks.
- Step 3:Report Fraudulent Wire Transfers and Attempts to Law Enforcement.
- Step 4:Call the sending bank again to confirm that the recall request has been processed.
- Step 5:Inform the parties to the transaction (buyer, seller, real estate agents, broker, attorneys, underwriter, notary, etc.) using known, trusted, phone numbers for verbal verification.
- Step 6:Review your Incident Response Plan to determine if you need to update passwords, secure hardware and review email logs to determine how and when email accounts were accessed.
- Step 7:Consider contacting your insurance carrier(s) and outside legal counsel.
- Step 8:If funds were wired out of the U.S., hire an attorney in that country to help recover funds.
- Step 9: File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).