Wire fraud is among the fastest growing cyber-related crimes in the U.S. today, and it’s having a significant impact on homebuyers. In 2017, more than 9,600 victims in the real estate sector lost $56 million to these fraudulent attacks.1
Wire fraud occurs when cybercriminals hack into the databases of title or real estate companies to access email addresses. Then they will send fraudulent emails asking for all closing funds to be wired to their own accounts. Clients, thinking they’re completing the purchase of their homes, transfer their money to the scammers’ accounts. They suddenly find themselves trying to recover anything they can and scrambling to ensure their closing can still happen.
As a lender, you have the opportunity to help caution your clients against these types of scams. Here are three simple tips you can share with your clients to help them steer clear of wire fraud risk.
1. Pick up the phone.
Tried-and-true technologies are often the safest methods of communication. Before wiring any money, clients should call the title office directly to confirm instructions and logistics. Use a phone number provided by the title company directly (or published on their website)—not one given in an email.
2. Stay cautious.
Let clients know in advance that any email containing new wiring information should be considered a red flag. Title companies will rarely change instructions and payment details ahead of a closing, and they would not typically communicate any critical information via email.
3. Confirm, confirm, confirm.
Clients should confirm (and reconfirm) both the account number and name of the recipient before sending a wire. Taking this simple step—by cross-checking against existing paperwork or, again, hopping on the phone—can mean the difference between succumbing to a fraudulent attempt and keeping the closing on track.
Even seasoned homebuyers can fall prey to sophisticated criminals out to destroy what should be one of life’s happiest moments. As their lender, you can strengthen your relationship and keep their finances secure by alerting them to potential threats—and making sure they know how to avoid them.