You are at the last stage of the buying process. You receive an email from your agent about wire transfer instruction details for the escrow money, and you oblige. But…. something is not right. The escrow agent repeatedly asks you if the money has been wired. A couple of hours later there is still no sign of the escrow money having been transferred out. Chances are you are the victim of scam.
Real estate wire transfer fraud is growing these days. Here is some helpful information to help you identify if you’re being targeted, as well as tips on how to prevent being scammed.
The tell-tale sign of a real estate wire transfer scam
Scams are easily avoided if you know what to look for. When it comes to real estate wire transfer fraud, you only really need to be on the lookout for one thing: an email with wire transfer instructions. This is the key a hacker uses to get you to wire money to a bogus account, and if you shut it down early, the hacker won’t get anything from you.
On the off chance you get an email containing sensitive bank and wiring information supposedly from your escrow officer, the best thing you can do is to call your agent. Confirm if an email with such instructions have indeed been sent to you. By getting in touch with your escrow agent, you’re confirming whether the email is legitimate or fraudulent.
Just because the email was sent via your escrow officer’s email address doesn’t mean it’s legit. Hackers get into the email accounts of agent and escrow officers to monitor transactions and imitate the style of the official email. To be absolutely sure, always confirm with your escrow officer by phone.
Prevention is always better
Real estate wire transfer fraud is easily avoidable. You don’t need high-end security features to avoid getting scammed by hackers. Here are a few ways to avoid losing your money to fraudulent activity. Agents and escrow officers will also do well to take the following precautions.
- Don’t send sensitive financial information in an email– Since email accounts are susceptible to hacking, better keep such data to yourself. If it’s unavoidable, do take care to use encrypted email.
- Secure your email accounts– One easy way to protect your email accounts from hackers is to enable 2-step verification or multi-factor authentication. For example, if the 2-step verification on your Gmail account is enabled, you’ll receive an SMS with a special code to input to your account. The code allows whatever gadget you’re using to access the account, and will expire in 30 days, requiring you to verify your identity again.
Last but not the least: always call your escrow officer when it’s time to wire escrow money. Have your escrow officer give wire instructions over the phone, and repeat all information twice to make sure everything is correct.
Learn more about San Diego real estate and the home buying process! Contact me today or text/call me at 760 622 5087.