Buying a home is a hectic process for any aspiring homeowner. This is because with the advancements in technology scamming has become easier than it was a few years back. It’s a complete nightmare for any homeowner to realize that you just wired all your hard earned cash to an offshore account belonging to a scammer.

According to a study by the Chicago Tribune, the FBI has been able to track over $1 billion that were diverted from real estate firms. From December 2016 and May 2018, consumers reported a 136% increase in loses related to these crimes. That being said here’s what you need to know about Wire Fraud:

How criminals fool buyers

wire fraud when buying a home buying a home, you need to send some down payment. Although some people accept cashier’s checks the main mode of payment is through wiring money to specific accounts. The scam starts when the hacker gets access to the accounts of the realtors and monitor them for days even weeks and just when you are about to close the deal, you receive an email similar to the realtors, falsely claiming that there has been a last minute change in the wiring instructions.

Most home buyers send money to these accounts which are mostly overseas, some out of reach of the U.S. law enforcement. In some cases, the criminals follow up with phone calls to the victims reassuring them that the wire transfer is real. Once this is done your funds are completely lost and unless you contact your bank and the law enforcement quickly your chances of recovering the funds are slim.

What can you do to protect yourself from scams?

  • Be vigilant

As a home buyer, you should always realize that you are the target of these types of scams. You should, therefore, be very careful to verify any suspicions you may have related to home purchase or sale.

  • Visit the offices to get the wiring details

You should discuss the closing process and money transfer protocols with your real estate firm. If you are unable to visit the offices take your time to scheme through the email to try and identify any detail that may seem to be off.

  • Don’t react to the email immediately

If you receive an email claiming to be from your realtor requesting that you send money for closing, even if it seems from a familiar source, STOP and call your agent to confirm. Do not use the numbers or links in the email since they lead directly to the scammers.

  • Talk to your bank

Before sending any money, you can ask your bank to help identify red flags such as differences in the account name and the intended beneficiary. Your bank can also help compare the account number to those identified in the past for fraudulent transactions.

  • Find yourself a reputable title agency

Reputable real estate professionals like Heights Title Services do not normally send bank account details and wire information over the email. If you receive an email like this from us, contact us right away. At Heights Title Service we live by the single rule of performing each closing with professionalism and competency to ensure a stress-free experience for our clients.

What to do if you are a victim

  • Contact your bank immediately. The may still be able to do a wiring recall.
  • Contact your local FBI and state Attorney General office.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, regardless of the amount.
  • Report the phishing scam to the Federal Trade Commission.
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