Savvy criminals are hacking into email accounts through captured passwords and searching inboxes for upcoming transactions, user language style, and industry-specific lingo. Once achieved, the Hacker pretends to be the title agent or closing representative and sends an email to the Buyer with new wiring instructions. The email usually directs the Buyer to wire their down payment and/or closing monies to this new account which actually belongs to the criminal. This crime is especially disheartening as many lose their savings, and it can set off a chain reaction of victimizations.
Here are 3 Top Tips for Avoiding Wire Fraud:
1. Do not use a public Wifi
Never use a public or unsecured wireless network when sharing sensitive documentation. These open sources do not require a password and have very few cyber security measures in terms of encryption. Connecting to the internet through this open network can put your machine or mobile device at a greater risk of being compromised.
2. ALWAYS verbally verify with the Escrow Agent
Before authorizing a wire transfer, research the phone number of your title company and call directly to verify the wiring instructions, account and bank routing information. After the wire is complete, call again to confirm the funds have been received. Do not accept wiring instructions from anyone other than your escrow agent and be suspicious of any emails that direct otherwise, even if they are from your own Realtor or Lender. Look carefully at email communications and do not rely only on email instructions. This point cannot be stressed enough.
3. Choose a Lender with proper security measures in place
Ensure your Lender has the latest in email encryption software and implements the highest protective measures and best practices in their cyber security efforts. Always use secure portals when uploading or sharing personal digital documentation and check the Better Business Bureau and even local Chambers of Commerce to verify email addresses or professional endorsements. Without the latest in technology, it can be nearly impossible to prevent fraud attempts. American Liberty Mortgage is an excellent example of a company that offers today’s tightest controls in IT infrastructure and cyber security measures.
Transactions are certainly much easier and convenient in the 21st century but, as with most things, there can be pitfalls. While it may feel cumbersome to go through these 3 steps, protecting yourself will benefit you in the long run. If you fail to do something as simple as take 5 minutes to call the escrow agent or wait until you get home to use the Wifi, you could spend countless hours trying to get your money back, and in many cases, victims never do.
With more than 20 years of experience in real estate, Leslie Heimer is a Professional Real Estate Advisor with Stockworth. She also owns a thriving mortgage practice in Central Florida and was named 100 Most Powerful Women in Banking in 2018 by the National Mortgage Professional Magazine.
Leslie is also a contributor for the prestigious Scotsman's Guide and named Most Connected for Real Estate Lending in 2019 by NMP Publication for her social media influence and thought leadership. She has been recognized on the cover of FOCUS Magazine, the Orlando Business Journal, and Orange Appeal Magazine for real estate and marketing strategies, and Orlando Family Magazine recognized Heimer as one of the Top 50 Real Estate Professionals year-over-year since 2017.