Sep 24, 2017
Real estate wire fraud is becoming more common. Here's how it works:
Criminals hack into the email account of someone involved in a real estate transaction (your real estate agent, mortgage lender, escrow agent, etc.). They send an email to the buyer that appears to come from this person, urging the buyer to wire down payment money to escrow right away. The fraudsters make it sound urgent and have a reasonable explanation as to why this must be done immediately. They include wire instructions with the escrow company's (supposed) account number and bank routing number.
You see where this is going, don't you?
The buyer marches down to his/her bank and wires the money to the (fake) escrow company. But they're actually wiring their money directly to the criminals. As soon as the money is received, the crooks wire it out of the country and that money is gone.
This is not something that happens to other people in big cities. This has happened on the Olympic Peninsula.
How can you protect yourself and your money?
- Call your escrow company directly to voice confirm wire instructions.
- Ask your bank to call again and confirm the account details prior to sending the wire.
- If you receive new wire instructions that change the destination account, be very suspicious.
- Independently verify contact information. Do not verify by responding to the email, by calling any number listed in the email, or by following a link in the email. Always use a phone number that you already know to be a legitimate phone number.
- Local escrow companies use local bank branches (at least around here). Be very suspicious if an escrow company in Port Angeles, Washington asks you to wire funds to a bank in Fort Worth, Texas.
Stay safe out there!