Real Estate Wire Fraud is a real problem and it has been going on for a few years.
Buyers or sellers can be potentially scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars!
It almost happened to a writer for Forbes online, and just like her story, it often starts with an email that really looks like it comes from the title company who is handling closing. The names are correct, the property right. But if you look closely, the email address is ONE number or letter off. (For example, a zero (0) instead of an “O”.)
If she had followed through with sending the required wire for her purchase to this bank account, she would have lost $60,000!
As I mentioned in a post a few years back about Title Company Money Wire Safety, I was involved in a transaction where the title company received an email from what they thought was a real estate agent involved in the transaction. The title company was all set to change the wire instructions for the seller’s proceeds from the sale – but luckily, someone called the agent before they hit “send” and the agent said “NO! I have nothing to do with the seller’s wiring instructions!” The email the title company received had a ZERO instead of an “O” in the agent’s address – and they hadn’t caught it.
The problem is that there are so many parties involved that it isn’t clear where the hackers are getting in. Is it the agent’s account? Maybe, but if they have multi-step logins for their email, then most likely not. Could it be the title company? The seller’s email? Buyer’s? Lender’s? We don’t know.
But somehow, hackers are able to gain access, and can potentially wreak havoc on the transaction.
There are steps you can take to help protect you and your money when you are either buying or selling a Baltimore home. As I listed in my other post:
- First, when a title company has been chosen by the buyer, make sure you confirm that it is the correct title company that is sending you a request for information.
- Second, make sure your email login has a multiple step protection process.
- Third, when you are asked to provide wiring information or receive wiring instructions from the title company, call the number ORIGINALLY given to you by your agent – not the number that is written on any paperwork sent with that request. Also, use the web to look up the title company’s registered phone number to cross reference the number you are calling.
- Fourth, when you send that information to the title company, CALL them afterward to make sure they received it. Again, call the ORIGINAL number given to you that you have already called and checked before.
Don’t worry about bothering the title company with too many phone calls. They would rather not have money go to the wrong account – either incoming or outgoing!
For more information about Baltimore real estate, please contact me. I would be happy to help!