I’m here today with Stacey Griffith of Ticor Title to warn you of something sinister that’s running rampant in real estate: wire fraud scams.
According to the FBI, over an 18-month period, wire fraud cost its victims $1.6 billion in the United States alone. But what do these scams look like?
In a wire fraud, scammers are attempting to divert wired money, which could be a seller’s proceeds, a buyer’s earnest money, payoffs, and more. They intercept wiring instructions and send their own, meaning the wired money goes to the wrong party—the scammers.
They’re hacking into unsecured websites or into Realtors’ email addresses and impersonating members of the transaction. This is why it’s incredibly important to be aware of any subtle changes in their contact information or their behavior.
Stacey dealt with an experience that happened during a payoff. An agent emailed her assistant and asked for the payoff information. It was sent, and two days later, it came back with updated instructions. The new details were actually fraudulent, but they were able to identify it as a scam and avoid any further issues.
So what can agents, lenders, and people in general do to avoid falling victim to these scams? The best is to pick up the phone; if you receive new payment instructions via email, verify it by calling your agent. As a precaution, my team never sends clients any wiring information.
Agents should be sending as little information as possible. If you hook up your client and title directly so only the title company is dealing with social security information and payoff details, it protects everyone involved. The less information being passed through emails, the better.
I’d like to thank Stacey for providing us with some great information today. If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you soon.