Now that we’re heading towards the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, the real estate industry has been able to thrive thanks to an influx in prospective buyers who are ready for a change of scenery. Real estate wire transfer scams and crimes also tend to rise when the market is doing well due to the amount of transactions occurring, so how can we avoid them?
Wire fraud typically occurs in the real estate industry when a scammer poses as a trusted source, like a vendor, company, or family member. These individuals always request an immediate wire transfer of funds, and often make up some sort of emergency as a way to emotionally manipulate the victims out of the money.
According to the American Land Title Association, more than 11,600 individuals were victims of real estate wire transfer fraud in 2019. Experts claim that number has increased exponentially throughout the pandemic, and it likely will continue to get worse.
These hackers aren’t your typical trolls who try to get you to click a link so they can access all your personal information. They follow the entire real estate process from start to finish, posing as fake real estate agents and figure heads to get their victims to feel safe in their transactions.
These hackers are able to acquire the money once they deceitfully reroute the closing instructions for the wire transfer. At the end of the transfer, where a certified check would typically appear to make sure the transaction is legitimate, these hackers instead just complete the exchange and take the money.
These sort of crimes have been on the rise in the past year due to the amount of real estate transactions that have now been occurring online. It’s becoming harder and harder for buyers to determine who’s a trusted agent and who could potentially scam them.
According to ABC News, some of the best things you can do as a prospective buyer, when it comes to determining the legitimacy of your transaction, is “read and double-check everything carefully. Always forward emails, never reply. Remember, a title company will never create urgency or urge you to move quickly.”
“Verbally verify everything through a phone number you recognize. Change your passwords regularly, never email financial information, and always report suspicious activity.”
Michael McKenna, the president and co-founder of Weichert McKenna & Vane, spoke to the media recently about what he tells his clients to look out for in order to protect themselves and their money:
“You really want to focus on validating the wire instructions with a phone call and verifying the phone numbers and verifying the wiring information, the account numbers that you are sending and receiving monies to and from. That verification on the phone, understanding that you are talking to a voice that you’ve probably spoken to before and you trust in that voice, is very critical.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.