Wiring Money For Your Real Estate Purchase? It Pays To Be Cautious!
Imagine you are about to settle on your purchase of a home. All of the details are in place, you need only to wire your funds for your Down Payment and closing costs to the Settlement Company then show up and sign on the dotted line...
You arrive at the Settlement and are asked if you have sent them your wire transfer yet. Puzzled, you respond, "Yes, I did that already!" The Settlement Company double-checks their account and - - nothing. You check your bank account and the funds are gone. A sickening feeling starts to settle in...You are the victim of the latest criminal scam targeting real estate transactions: Wire Fraud.
What Just Happened?
How does this happen? In a typical scenario, a hacker accesses an email account of a buyer, real estate agent, title representative, or mortgage lender and learns pertinent information about the pending transaction. They secretly watch the communications about the transaction and just before closing, the hacker sends an email to the buyer posing as the agent, lender, or title representative, asking the buyer to wire a down payment, closing costs, etc., to a fraudulent account and 'poof' - - the money is gone.
Think this can’t happen to you? Think again. This is a widespread problem that is occurring nationwide in our industry.
Consumers need to be aware that this is a possibility and should talk with their real estate professional about protecting themselves against this scam. This includes calling your agent, lender, or settlement (title) representative BEFORE wiring any money to confirm any wiring instructions and account set-up.
Do NOT confirm any wiring instructions over email, otherwise a hacker could see that message if someone else involved in the transaction has had their email account compromised, and provide you with fraudulent information.
On The Art of Real Estate Team, we recommend that our Buyer and Seller clients have all wiring instructions verified with a phone call with your agent and never using a phone number or link supplied in a suspicious email.
Sellers Need To Take Notice As Well
Here's another angle to this scam that affects Sellers: The title company receives an email from a “seller” just before closing asking to wire the sale proceeds instead of making a direct deposit, issuing a check, or wiring the funds into a specific account that the Seller previously instructed the title company in writing.
The title company may also receive an email from the “listing agent” confirming the 'change in plans', and that the money needs to be wired (into the bogus account).
If the title company accepts verbal verification only before wiring any funds, but later realizes that both the seller and real estate agent email accounts have been hacked, it's too late! As a Seller, ALWAYS instruct the title company in writing and ALWAYS VERIFY that information before you leaving the table at Settlement!
An Ounce Of Caution
NEVER wire funds based upon the content of an email. Instead, create a verification process to confirm wiring instructions in person or by phone.
If by phone, do not use the number provided in a suspicious email or even an email that appears to have come from your agent or the Settlement Company without verifying directly
If you suspect a wire or check was sent fraudulently, contact your bank immediately.
Have questions about the Home Buying or Home Selling process? We are here to help, just as we have guided and assisted hundreds of Northern Virginia buyers and sellers!
We help our SELLERS to get "The Most Money For Their Home", and our BUYERS to get "The Most Home For Their Money" - - and we can do the same for YOU!
"We Sell Homes From A Fresh Perspective...YOURS!"
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