The latest CARNM Member-written CARNM Commercial Source article featured in the Albuquerque Journal’s HomeStyle Magazine is written by Ty Robeck and features information on wire fraud prevention.
By: Ty Robeck of First American Title of NM (HomeStyle Magazine by The Albuquerque Journal)
Tips to Protect You From Wire Fraud, Scams
New projects are exciting. You spend months planning and scouting proper- ties, followed by weeks of negotiations and inspections. Finally, you are just days from closing when you receive an email with new wiring instructions for the closing funds. Not wanting to cause any delays, you send the wire right away. You don’t know it yet, but you just became the victim of wire fraud. Good-bye closing funds. Back to square one.
Wire fraud can be that simple. Over the past few years, the real estate industry has been plagued by incidents where criminals hacked the email accounts of buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals in order to learn about transactions and/or impersonate identities with the intention of misdirecting funds.
Attention to Detail
A supposed seller may email the title company with new instructions for the disbursement of the sale proceeds. A fictional payoff lender may provide a false statement with wiring instructions to the fraudster’s account. In our scenario above, a buyer receives a communication that appears to be from the title company, when in fact, it is from an untrusted source.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Association of REALTORS®, American Land Title Association and others have published alerts to inform the real estate industry and consumers about these phishing scams. The challenge is that every individual in a transaction must be cautious and diligent when it comes to reviewing small details. Noticing the difference between email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org can make the difference between closing on your property or becoming a victim.
Here are some suggested precautions to take when interacting with parties associated with your transaction, particularly when it comes to financial information or funds.
Call your title company at a trusted number to confirm wiring instructions before sending funds. Title companies rarely alter wiring instructions, so any communication like this should be considered suspect. When in doubt – pick up the phone. If you receive any email communication that seems strange (new email address, poor grammar, typos, abnormal requests) contact the party at a trusted number. Do not use any phone numbers or email addresses included in that communication.
Also be cautious of links in emails. Pay close attention to the sender’s email address and look for any red flags that may indicate the email is fraudulent. Do not click on a link unless you are sure of the sender.
Secure Your Email
In general, exercise caution with regards to your online habits. The wire fraud scenarios generally start with hacking an email account, so securing your email is the first step to prevention.
Use multi-factor authentication on your email accounts and any financial accounts. This requires an additional action to verify changes to your account. Keep your firewall and security software up-to-date and avoid accessing accounts from unsecured wifi. It also helps to use strong passwords which combine letters, numbers, and symbols.
If you think you have sent funds using fraudulent wiring instructions, contact your financial institution immediately to attempt to stop the wire. You can report fraudulent activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov/complaint. Phishing emails can be reported to the FTC at www.ftc- complaintassistant.gov.
Criminals are innovative, sophisticated and constantly contriving new methods for fraud and mischief. Consistent communication, from the beginning of a transaction to the closing, will often surface potentially harmful scenarios and make it easier to identify something that seems out of place. Stay ahead of the criminals and protect your real estate transaction by working closely with the trusted professionals on your team
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