Wire Fraud: 3 Tips to Prevent

The new FBI cybercrime numbers for 2021 are out, and they are not great. We’ve used this blog to talk about the importance of being aware of wire fraud when it comes to our real estate transactions, but we wanted to make sure we did it again. 

Reported losses reached $350 million, up from $213 million in 2020, when it comes to real estate alone.  If there is any silver lining in the figures, it’s this – the number of victims decreased by more than 2,000, but overall this data shows we must continue the fight against wire fraud on behalf of our buyers and sellers.

Just listen to these words from ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. 

“Cybercriminals continue to get smarter and are focused on larger amounts to divert to fraudulent accounts. Homebuyers paying cash for properties may have a higher risk of being tricked into sending funds to fraudulent accounts,” she said. “Working with our partners involved in the real estate transaction, along with government officials, our members continue to educate people about how they can protect their money when purchasing a home or refinancing a mortgage, so they continue to trust and have confidence in our digital world.”

Keep in mind, we’re not the only ones aware of how hot the market is, these cybercriminals are too. They know we are busy and that large sums of money are at stake here. It’s why staying vigilant is the only option. Another important note: While victims over 40 accounted for almost 75 percent of the $6.9 billion lost to all types of cybercrime in 2021, the number of those under 30 who were affected by wire fraud in real estate jumped almost 120 percent. This spike means first-time homebuyers were affected by these scams, according to ALTA, again highlighting the need for education on this front. 

So, how can we work to prevent fraud for our buyers and sellers?

  • Continue to warn your clients about wire fraud early – and often. Spell out exactly what will happen during the closing process, and inform them that any last-minute changes to the plan are unlikely.
  • Keep using multi-factor authentication for your email and other accounts, and stay on the lookout for phishing attempts. 
  • Tell them these criminals often try to impersonate someone involved in the transaction – a Realtor, loan officer and even the title company – so any change in email address or money account – should be treated with suspicion. 

Remember, call us if you ever suspect something is off. We’re always happy to talk to you whether it’s about this issue or something else. This is going to be an exciting season for us all, and we want to keep it that way for our customers.

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