You have been looking for months and have finally found the home of your dreams. Overcoming multiple offers in this crazy market, all negotiations, loan approval, everything has lined up and you are finally at closing table, signing all documents, and anxiously awaiting to be handed the keys to your dream home and perhaps one of the happiest moments in your life, right? Perhaps not, as the title agent walks back in and informs you they have not received your down payment, and you reply, oh but I wired that to you yesterday!! You know that feeling of someone punching you in the gut, that bad feeling in your stomach, when someone stole your lunch, or your bike from the rack! The stakes are higher now than ever, and wire fraud is now hitting the home building/buying industry big time.
Criminals are targeting home buyers and stealing huge sums of money. If you’re not careful, you could be tricked into sending your entire down payment to a thief.
Here’s how to keep your money safe.
Beware of emails with wiring instructions
In the most common scam, you receive an email (or text or voicemail) that appears to come from a legitimate source, like the title company, your real estate agent, the mortgage lender, or the settlement officer in charge of your real estate closing. However, the fraudulent message contains instructions to wire your down payment funds directly into the account of a cyber criminal.
How to protect yourself
- Be suspicious of any message with money-wiring instructions. Red flags include changes or updates to wire details you previously received. However, a first message with wiring instructions or a message to “resend” or “verify” instructions could be fraudulent as well.
- Before you send any funds, call your settlement or closing agent at a phone number you know is correct. Do not call any number from the message you received.
- After you wire funds with instructions you have independently verified, call your settlement agent to confirm the funds were received.
What to do if you suspect you’ve been victimized
Act quickly. The sooner you report wire fraud, the better your chances of recovering your funds.
- Contact your bank to report the fraudulent activity.
- Notify your local FBI office.
- File a complaint online at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- A step by step guide to wire fraud recovery When Minutes Matter.
Talk with your REALTOR® about ways to make sure your real estate transaction proceeds safely and securely.