Wire Fraud in the Real Estate Industry
Here is what at eXp Realty we have every client sign, because we know about the seriousness of this issue and we want to make sure we advise all our clients. I also have a warning in my email signature.
Wiring Fraud Advisory Notice
Cyber-crime is a potential threat in real estate transactions. Instances have occurred where criminals have hacked email accounts of entities related to real estate transactions (such as lawyers, escrow holder’s, title company representatives, or real estate brokers and agents). Using email, hackers have invaded real estate transactions and used fraudulent wiring instructions to direct parties to wire funds to the criminals bank accounts, often to off-shore accounts, with little chance of recovery. It also appears that some hackers have provided false phone numbers for verifying the wiring instructions. In those cases, the buyers called the number provided to confirm the instructions, and then unwittingly authorized a transfer to somewhere other than escrow. Sellers also have had their sales proceeds taken through similar schemes. PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT eXp Realty, WILL NEVER SEND VIA EMAIL WIRING INSTRUCTIONS RELATED TO YOUR TRANSACTIONS.
BUYER/LESSEES AND SELLERS/LESSORS AREA ALSO ADVISED
- Obtain the phone number of the Escrow Officer at the beginning of the transaction.
- NEVER WIRE FUNDS PRIOR TO CALLING YOUR ESCROW OFFICER TO CONFIRM WIRE INSTRUCTIONS. ONLY USE A PHONE NUMBER YOU WERE PROVIDED PREVIOUSLY. Do not use any different phone number included in the emailed wire transfer instructions.
- Orally confirm the wire transfer instruction is legitimate and confirm the bank routing number, account numbers and other codes before taking steps to transfer the funds.
- Avoid sending personal information in emails or texts. Provide such information in person or over the telephone directly to the Escrow Officer.
- Take steps to secure the system you are using with your email account. These steps include creating strong passwords and using secure WiFi as well as two-step verification process.
If an email or a telephone call seems suspicious refrain from taking any action until the communication has been independently verified. Promptly notify your bank, your real estate agent and the Escrow Officer. The sources below, as well as others, can also provide information: The Federal Bureau of Investigation www.fbi.gov The National White-Collar Crime Center www.nw3c.org On Guard Online: www.onguardoline.gov