Technology has completely transformed the way we live, making everything from grocery shopping to planning trips to buying homes faster and more convenient. But unfortunately, the way we conduct our lives online has also opened up a multitude of new opportunities for scammers and cybercriminals — and wire fraud is an increasingly common occurrence.
At Investors Title Company, we work hard to keep our real estate clients as safe as possible. Remember, while working with Investors Title, you should always keep in mind the following:
ITC will never send an e-mail requiring you to wire funds.
If you receive emailed wire instructions from ITC, you should always call ITC to confirm these wire instructions first — regardless of how legitimate the e-mail looks.
Take a look at more information on wire fraud and how to stay protected with these tips from our St. Louis title company.
How Common is Wire Fraud Today?
Cybercrime rates are continually climbing. In fact, a public service announcement from the FBI reported that more than $10 billion was lost in the U.S. between October 2013 and July 2019 due to email account compromises. These sophisticated scams directly targeted individuals and businesses conducting wire transfer payments.
Additionally, the 2020 AFP Payments Fraud Survey (underwritten by J.P. Morgan) showed that payments fraud cases continue to impact the majority of companies, with 74% of respondents reporting that their organizations were targeted by scams in 2020.
Unfortunately, the real estate industry is far from immune to these criminals’ efforts. In recent years, the U.S. Secret Service has observed a large increase in fraud targeting wire transfers in real estate and mortgage transactions. Scams targeted at the real estate sector affected 13,638 victims in 2020, resulting in a loss of more than $213 million.
How Does Wire Fraud Work?
When it comes to real estate-related wire fraud, thieves typically target homebuyers in the final stages of their transactions. Hackers gain access to the email accounts of key personnel — whether it be attorneys, mortgage lenders, title companies, buyers, sellers or real estate agents — and monitor their messages for details of the deal as it unfolds.
The criminals then create a fake email address that mimics the seller, seller’s agent, a title company, an attorney or other stakeholder in the transaction and sends a request to wire the closing money to a specific account. By copying logos, email signatures and using language that sounds legitimate to the buyers, they are able to fool their victims.
The victim, assuming that the email is a legitimate request and a logical next step in their deal, complies and wires the payment. Once the transfer is completed, the money is in the hands of the thief and will likely be lost forever.
How Can You Stay Protected From Wire Fraud?
Investors Title Company has policies and measures in place to help protect individuals from email and wire fraud. Our title company does not require that your client send a wire for closing and will never email your client to request a wire.
Before sending wires on customers’ behalf, we require the customer to complete our Wire Authorization form in person and provide a canceled check of the receiving account.
Here are steps you and your real estate clients can take on your own to prevent wire fraud:
Take Extra Precautions
- Don’t Email: Call to confirm your wiring instructions by phone using a known number before transferring funds. Don’t use phone numbers or links from an email.
- Be Suspicious: Title companies do not change wiring instructions and payment info by email. If you receive an email that includes these kinds of requests, contact your title company representative immediately and file a complaint with the IC3.
Protect Your Money
- Confirm Everything: Ask your bank to confirm the name on the account before sending a wire.
- Verify Immediately: Within four to eight hours of sending the wire, call the title company to confirm that they received your money.
What Do You Do If You’ve Been Targeted by a Wire Scam?
Detecting that you sent money to the wrong account within 24 hours is the best chance of recovering your money. You should also:
- Immediately call your bank and ask them to issue a recall notice for your wire.
- Report the crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Call your regional FBI office and police.
No other title companies in St. Louis match ITC’s commitment to customer care and excellent service. If you want to work with a title company you can trust, find an Investors Title Company office near you, or request a title order or quote online today.