I sent a post out last year on how to protect yourself from wire fraud prior to closing on your home. Because there seem to be more and more homebuyers falling victim to these wire fraud emails, I want to reiterate the importance of being vigilant when it comes to purchasing your home and all the documents that will be received through email from various sources. It’s extremely important that if you are thinking about purchasing a home, or if you know someone that is, please watch out for these scams and let everyone know what to look for.

  1. Criminals monitor real estate professional’s emails to look for upcoming transactions. They’ll also monitor lenders and title companies. They compromise these emails through malware.
  2. They’ll monitor the closing dates and when a date is coming up soon, the criminals will send an email to the homebuyer giving them different wire instructions. These emails appear to be real, but typically they are from overseas criminals. They even sometimes follow up with the homebuyer with a phone call.
  3. If the scam is successful and money is wired to an offshore account, your money is gone, your dream home is gone, and there’s no getting either one of them back.

What Can You Do To Be Aware Of Any Potential Wire Fraud Emails?

  1. Make sure you are represented by a good real estate agent and stay in touch. He or she will keep you in the loop and will be with you through the entire home-buying process.
  2. Get to know your escrow officer at the title company. Know who they are, know their email addresses. Title companies will not ever email wiring instructions.
  3. Know what to look for. Always look at the email addresses that you receive. Especially if they include important or sensitive information. They can be tricky so be vigilant. If your agent’s email is bob.realtor@realtorrealestate.com and it becomes bob.realtor@realtorealstate.com, there may be a problem. See the difference?
  4. Even if the addresses are the same, if there is a change in the wiring instructions, contact your realtor, lender, or title company immediately.
  5. Do not click on any attachments such as a pdf file if you do not know where it’s coming from.
  6. Call your agent, lender, or title company for verification upon getting an email that may look questionable or includes sensitive information.

As a real estate agent, I get numerous emails from companies wanting me to open their emails. I try to be as cautious as possible. Here’s an example:

So take a look at this incoming email:

  1. I’ve never dealt with this title company.
  2. There’s no address in the signature.
  3. I Googled Martin Ostergard, Fidelity Title and the phone number in Kentucky and was unable to find anything.
  4. Look at the sender’s email address. Most professional companies, especially a title company would never have an AOL address. It is usually always their name@theircompany. But again, always verify.

I’m assuming what these people want me to do is open their attachment so they can somehow get into my computer. This is how easy these criminals can get in. It’s not just the homebuyers that need to be aware and careful, it’s real estate agents as well.

Buying a home is such an exciting time! Don’t let these criminals get the best of you.

Below are some links to current news on wire fraud emails:

CNBC – How Scammers Trick New Homebuyers With Wire Fraud

Houston Agent Magazine – Wire Transfer Fraud: What Agents Can Do To Prevent It