Never trust wiring instructions via email
Criminals/hackers are targeting email accounts of various parties involved in real estate transactions (e.g., lawyers, title agents, mortgage brokers, real estate agents). These emails are convincing and sophisticated. Among other concerns, this has led to fraudulent wiring instructions being used to divert funds to the criminal’s bank account. These emails may look like legitimate emails from the proper party. If you receive an email regarding instructions that contains any suspicious information, do not click on any links that may be in the email and do not reply.
Broker strongly recommends that Buyer, Seller, and their respective attorneys and others working on a transaction, refrain from placing any sensitive personal and financial information in an email, directly or through an email attachment. When there is a need to share Social Security numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers, wiring instructions or similar sensitive information, Broker strongly recommends using more secure means, such as providing the information in person, over the phone, or through secure mail or package services, whenever possible. In addition, before Buyer or Seller wires any funds to any party (including Buyer or Seller’s attorney, title agent, mortgage broker, or real estate broker) personally call them to confirm the information is legitimate (i.e., confirm the ABA routing number or SWIFT code and credit account number). Buyer and Seller should call them at a number that is independently obtained (e.g., from this Contract, the recipient’s website, etc.) and not use the number in the email in order to be sure that the contact is a legitimate party.
Common Wire Fraud Scam Tactics
Wire fraud scams are a type of online scam that involve tricking individuals or businesses into sending money electronically to the fraudsters. Here are some of the most common tactics used in wire fraud scams:
- Phishing emails: Scammers send emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks, companies, or government agencies, asking for personal or financial information.
- Business email compromise: Scammers hack into the email accounts of company executives or employees and send emails requesting that funds be transferred to fraudulent accounts.
- Real estate fraud: Scammers impersonate real estate agents or title companies and send emails requesting that funds be sent for closing costs or other expenses.
- Investment fraud: Scammers pose as financial advisors or investment firms and offer fake investment opportunities.
- Charity scams: Scammers impersonate legitimate charities and ask for donations via wire transfer.
- Tech support scams: Scammers pose as tech support personnel and offer to fix computer problems, only to request payment via wire transfer.
To avoid falling victim to wire fraud scams, it’s important to verify the identity of the person or company requesting the wire transfer, and to double-check all email addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. Additionally, it’s important to be wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls and to never give out personal or financial information to unknown parties.
Tips to help you identify a fraudulent email
- Check the sender’s email address: Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to legitimate ones, but with small differences. Check the email address carefully to make sure it’s legitimate.
- Look for spelling and grammar errors: Scammers often make mistakes in their emails, such as spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or awkward phrasing.
- Be wary of urgent or threatening language: Scammers often use urgent or threatening language to try to scare you into taking immediate action. Legitimate companies and organizations typically do not use such language in their emails.
- Don’t click on links or download attachments: Scammers often include links or attachments in their emails that contain malware or phishing scams. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading any attachments from unknown sources.
- Check for a sense of urgency: Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency to trick you into taking immediate action, such as making a payment or providing personal information. Be wary of emails that demand immediate action.
- Verify the information: If an email is requesting personal or financial information, or asking you to take action on an account or transaction, verify the information by contacting the company or organization directly using a trusted phone number or email address.
- Don’t provide personal or financial information: Legitimate companies and organizations typically do not request personal or financial information via email. If you are unsure about an email, do not provide any personal or financial information until you have verified its legitimacy.
By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to a fraudulent email. If you receive an email that you believe is fraudulent, report it to the relevant authorities and delete it from your inbox.