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How to avoid wire fraud when buying or selling your home

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Imagine wiring a large sum of money to who you think is your lender or escrow company, just as the sale on your home has closed. Except it's not them, and all that cash was gone in an instant with wire fraud taking place. Wire Fraud can happen when someone buys or sells their property and falls prey to this insidious form of theft, which is becoming more common than ever before for home buyers.


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In this article:


How does wire fraud happen?

Scammers target the email accounts of those involved in a real estate transaction and send convincing wire instruction emails. They may also call you, pretending to be someone who needs verification for an identity check. Their goal is to divert any funds to be transferred in a real estate transaction to a fraudulent account.


The scammer may claim to be your real estate agent, lender, or title company and may have an email address similar to theirs. In most cases, your agent won't ever be the one sending you wiring instructions. Instead, this typically comes from the lender or a 3rd party title company.


If you receive a suspicious email, do not click any links in the email and do not reply. Instead, call your agent, lender, or title company to confirm.



What to look out for and how to avoid wire fraud?

A great way to avoid being scammed is by knowing who is involved in the transaction. Knowing the parties involved in the sale, such as your real estate agent’s team, lender, and the title company can help prevent any surprises during the closing on a new home. So it's essential to know and save their contact information beforehand.


Check the email address that sent the email, it may look like your agent, lender, or title company rep's email address, but there may be one letter or number off in the email address.


For example, the closing agent's actual email may be janedoe@titleco.com, and the email can come from janedoe@gmail.com or janedoetitleco@gmail.com. These two examples have two slight differences that you may not see at first glance.

When you receive wire instructions, you should always call the lender or title company to confirm using the number on their website or reaching out to someone that you've been in contact with from their company.


Beware of any “urgent” last-minute changes in communicating to act quickly and send money. Last-minute changes are not rare when closing on a home, but you should be aware of them by your agent, lender, or closing agent if there are any changes ahead of time.


Scammers may call you with requests for your details, so it's essential to save the phone numbers of all parties involved in a sale. Being aware of suspicious numbers is a good way to protect yourself from fraudsters trying to impersonate those on either side of the transaction.



Conclusion

You are transacting on one of if not your most significant transactions, and you should be aware of wire fraud and take it seriously as it may cost you thousands of dollars. Avoid sharing personal and financial information via email and make sure that you confirm the closing details with your agent, lender, or closing agent. Always be on guard when dealing with your livelihood.

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