Wire scams are on the rise, as evidenced by multiple stories and articles I’ve recently read.
One of the most recent stories that has been shared on social media is a San Diego nurse and her chef husband who lost $774,631 in an escrow wire scam while trying to buy a house in Carlsbad, CA. They lost all of their life savings due to the scam. Even though they called the FBI once they realized the issue, they were told the money ended up in Singapore – and there was nothing that could be done.
The most recent article I saw is that Barbara Corcoran was scammed out of $388,70 when her bookkeeper received what she thought was an email from Corcoran’s assistant approving a payment for a real estate renovation.
At the beginning of 2020, both The New York Times and The Washington Post showcased articles about this crime on the rise. The New York Times article quotes James Abbott from the FBI about how real estate transactions are a growing target for wire fraud, and how to help protect yourself from being a victim of this type of crime. One recommendation, which I have been cautioning my clients with since a transaction I was involved with was targeted – CALL the original number you know for the person who sent you the wire instructions BEFORE sending money via wire. CONFIRM verbally the instructions. You could save yourself by taking this extra step.
The Washington Post article said the FBI estimates that consumers lost $150 million in 2018 due to this type of wire fraud.
How does the scammer get the information for a wire?
I went into some detail about this in an older post of mine, “Real Estate Wire Fraud Continues.” In Maryland, it often begins with an email that looks like it comes from the title company who is handling closing. The names are correct, the property is also correct. However, if you look closely, the email address may be ONE number or letter off. (For example, the scammer may use a zero (0) instead of an “O” in an email address.)
I had a seller in a transaction where this almost happened – but luckily it was caught JUST before the proceeds from the wire were sent to the scam account.
I first wrote about these wire scams in 2017 after reading an article about a homebuyer in Washington DC that lost $1.5 Million to a wire scam attack.
Please be aware that wire fraud scams are real – and be very vigilant and careful before sending wires.
For more information about Baltimore real estate, please contact me. I would be happy to help!