Essential Tips to Prevent Wire Fraud in Real Estate Closings

Learn the essential tips on how to avoid wire fraud in real estate closings and protect your property. Our comprehensive guide covers necessary measures to protect your transactions from cybercriminals. Learn more.

Things to Keep in Mind

With the increased prevalence of technology in daily life, security and fraud prevention are more important than ever, especially when it comes to real estate transactions. With that in mind, it’s crucial to understand wire fraud and take steps to prevent it. Wire fraud is a common type of cybercrime that targets both buyers and sellers during real estate closings; however, there are ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to this illegal activity. Keep reading to learn what wire fraud is, and how buyers and sellers can safeguard against it in order to make their closing process go smoothly.

What is Wire Fraud and How Does it Impact Real Estate Transactions?

In today’s digital age, cybercriminals are finding ways to penetrate security measures and intercept emails to deceive homebuyers and sellers. Wire fraud occurs when criminals use electronic communication, like phone calls or emails, to trick another person into giving them money or valuable information. The impact of wire fraud in real estate transactions can be devastating as victims can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye. Therefore, it is essential to stay vigilant and aware of the warning signs to avoid compromising sensitive financial information.

Common Wire Fraud Scams with Real Estate Closings

Wire fraud involving real estate closings is a common scam that can cost buyers or sellers a significant amount of money. This type of fraud typically involves a criminal posing as a trusted party, such as a real estate agent, escrow officer, lender, or attorney, and providing false instructions for a wire transfer. 

To avoid falling victim to wire fraud, it's important to be vigilant when reviewing any instructions related to the transfer of funds. 

Wire Fraud Red Flags to Watch Out For

It's essential to stay vigilant and up-to-date on the latest wire fraud scenarios in order to protect yourself from these malicious attacks. There are several red flags that you should watch for that may signal a potential risk of wire fraud. 

  • The sender's email address differs (even slightly) from an earlier confirmed address.
  • Wiring instructions are changed, such as routing numbers or bank account numbers.
  • Friendship or trust-based words, such as "friend" or "pal", or words indicating gratitude or compliments.
  • Requests to wire money to an unfamiliar account or requests to wire money to a foreign country for any reason.
  • An urgent, negative expression, such as "concern," "don't," "prevent," or "avoid."
  • Errors such as varying font size, incorrect grammar, punctuation, odd spacing, or capitalization may indicate potential fraud.
  • Last-minute closing changes and rushes.
  • Phishing emails or websites spoofing Endpoint.
  • Unexpected phone calls from someone claiming to be an Endpoint employee.
  • Questionable text messages about your Endpoint account or activity.

Nothing is too trivial to report. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a message from Endpoint, please report it to your closing team.

Protecting Yourself from Wire Fraud When Closing a Real Estate Transaction 

Scammers often try to take advantage of the hectic and stressful nature of closing day to trick unsuspecting individuals into wiring funds to fraudulent accounts. In an effort to avoid falling victim to such scams, we recommend communicating with your real estate agent, title company, and lender via secure channels, and ask them to confirm any wire transfer instructions verbally before sending funds. 

Endpoint will not change its wire instructions. If you receive an email or any other communication that contains new, revised, or altered bank wire instructions, please consider it suspect and call our office or contact us through your trusted source as soon as possible. Do not proceed until wire instructions are confirmed by Endpoint using a verified phone number.

Additionally, it's important to double-check the details of the transfer, such as the recipient account name and number, and ask your bank about their verification processes. Taking these precautions can help your transaction close smoothly.

Verifying Wire Instructions 

Sending money through a bank wire transfer is a convenient way to ensure that funds reach their intended recipient quickly. However, it is essential to verify the wiring instructions to avoid sending funds to the wrong account or falling victim to a scam. 

Be sure to double-check the transfer details, like the amount and currency, to help avoid errors. Lastly, confirm the wire before sending and give the recipient a heads up that funds are on their way, so they can confirm receipt. You should always take these precautions to ensure the legitimacy of wire transfers since they can be fake.

Reducing Wire Fraud Risk

There are a few actions you can take to proactively reduce the risk of wire fraud. For example, do not share your online banking login credentials with anyone. Safeguard your bank account number and monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions.

Do not access your bank account using public WiFi or a shared computer and consider installing a firewall on your computer for added protection.

Wire transfer scams are becoming more sophisticated and prevalent, making it crucial for individuals to know and understand the steps to take if they suspect malicious activity.

Reporting Suspected Instances of Wire Fraud

If you've fallen victim to a wire transfer scam, the first step is to immediately contact your financial institution and report the suspected fraudulent activity and request a wire fraud recall. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. It's essential to keep evidence of the scam, such as emails and wire transfer receipts. Reporting and responding to wire fraud is vital to preventing financial loss and protecting your assets.

Final Thoughts: Safeguarding Your Real Estate 

Wire fraud is an intimidating risk that can jeopardize a real estate closing if you are not adequately prepared. It is important to understand common scams related to wire fraud, be aware of potential red flags, and know the steps necessary to protect yourself from it. 

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent fraud, familiarizing yourself with proper verification procedures for wiring instructions, such as double-checking contact numbers via an independent source, might potentially save thousands of dollars. 

Should you suspect wire fraud, do your best to report it immediately so that action can be taken towards stopping the criminals as soon as possible. Above all else, protect yourself by staying educated on the subject of wire fraud in real estate transactions and practicing prevention. 

The tips above can help reduce risk, but this is not an exhaustive list of all cybersecurity best practices. Please remain vigilant and, for more information, review the references below.  

For more information, review the references below: