According to the FBI, real estate wire fraud is on the rise. In 2018 alone, there were over $1 billion in reported losses due to wire fraud. The 2021 Wire Fraud and Cyber Crime Survey conducted by the American Land Title Association found that title insurance professionals reported attempted fraud in a third of all real estate and mortgage transactions. This type of fraud typically occurs when a scammer poses as a legitimate real estate professional and uses email or text messages to trick victims into sending money or sensitive personal information.
If you're buying or selling a home, it's important to be aware of the threat of real estate wire fraud. This type of fraud occurs when a scammer poses as a legitimate real estate professional and uses email or text messages to trick victims into sending money or sensitive personal information.
What is real estate wire fraud?
Real estate wire fraud is a type of fraud that occurs when a scammer poses as a legitimate real estate professional and uses email or text messages to trick victims into sending money or sensitive personal information. Most relators, including many attorneys, use "consumers" email services such as Gmail and AOL. They don't go above and beyond to secure their emails. Compromised email accounts may provide a treasure trove of information for threat actors to exploit.
How does real estate wire fraud happen?
Real estate wire fraud typically occurs when a scammer finds a victim's personal information (such as an email address or phone number) and then uses it to contact the victim posing as a legitimate real estate professional. The scammer will often send official-looking documents or even create fake websites in an attempt to trick the victim into sending money or sensitive personal information.
If you're involved in the process of buying or selling a home, be on the lookout for red flags that might indicate you're being targeted by a real estate wire fraud scam. These can include unexpected communications from someone purporting to be your real estate agent or broker that contain typos or grammatical errors, requests for personal information or money that seem unusual, or pressure to act quickly without time to review documents.
There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from real estate wire fraud:
1. Know who you're dealing with. If you're selling your home, make sure you're working with a licensed real estate agent that you trust. If you're buying a home, be sure to verify the identity of the person you're working with and get everything in writing.
2. Verify wire transfer instructions. Before you send any money, always verify the wire transfer instructions with your real estate agent or attorney. Don't rely on email or text messages alone – make sure you verbally confirm the account number and routing number with a trusted source.
3. Don't click on links or attachments from unknown sources. If you receive an email or text message with a link or attachment from someone you don't know, don't click on it. It could be a phishing attempt designed to steal your personal information.
4. Use a secure messaging app or secure email. These apps encrypt your messages so that only the intended recipient can read them.
5. Report any suspicious activity to the authorities. If you think you may have been a victim of real estate wire fraud, contact your local law enforcement or the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Real estate wire fraud is a serious threat to both buyers and sellers of property. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim of this type of fraud. If you think you may have been the victim of real estate wire fraud, don't hesitate to contact the authorities.