Remember the days when if you heard the word “phishing” it brought to mind riverbanks, trout and largemouth bass? Now we are more likely to think of computers and computer hackers than lazy afternoons spent angling in the sun. A lot has changed. Unfortunately, real estate purchase and sale transactions are not exempt from the hacking attempts of criminals.
The latest scam in a long line of innumerable scams is the wire fraud transfer scam. This scam is directed at people who are in the process of buying a home. Here’s how the criminals do it: long before the scheduled closing date for sale or purchase of your new property, the scam is put into motion by criminals “phishing” for information. This generally takes the form of them sending you emails, or website forms or calling you to get your private information. Through seemingly harmless communication, fraudsters trick you into clicking on a link or inputting your information directly—thus enabling them to hack in to steal login and password information.
Once they gain access to an email account, they monitor messages to find someone who is in the process of buying a home. Then, they email fraudulent wire transfer instructions that look like they came from one of the professionals you are working with. These false instructions can look like they come from your real estate agent, your attorney or the title company you are working with. For example, if you are the buyer, the wire fraud scammer might claim that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and you to wire closing costs to a different account.
If you are buying or selling a home or other real estate, here are 3 things you can do to help protect yourself against wire fraud transfer scams.
- Respond with a call: not with a reply email.
First, if you get an email from a professional you are working with like your title company asking you to wire money to a different account (or whatever), assume it is a scam.
Because it very likely is. Title companies generally do not email wiring instructions and payment information.
Second, don’t hit reply—call your attorney/title company/real estate agent— whoever the email purports to be from, and speak to them in person.
- Look for inconsistencies in email addresses and domain names.
Carefully review the email for inconsistencies. The requests sent by a wire fraud scammer can look identical to official correspondence. That’s how they get you to fall for it. So look for inconsistencies in email addresses and domain names. If there is a sudden, unexplained change in the email address that you are working with – call someone you know and trust who has been working on your transaction and talk to them. Do not call the numbers mentioned in the email.
- Be wary of rush requests.
One of the more common approaches wire fraud scammers use in real estate transactions is to create a sense of urgency or last-minute changes. While real estate transactions can move pretty quickly, be wary of emails asking you when you will send the money or people who pressure you to make a rushed decision. No one should have an issue with you verifying information or explaining why something has changed—especially when you have a lot of money on the line.
Georgia Attorneys Handling all Your Real Estate Needs.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C, have experience in all aspects of real estate. We are based in Cumming, Georgia, but we serve Atlanta and the surrounding counties. Give us a call at: 770-888-7707. Or you can contact us here.