The process of buying a home is an exciting and eventful journey. Highland Title + Escrow recognizes the road should be smooth with sights to see along the way. Unfortunately, real estate wire fraud runs rampant in our industry. Scammers are on high alert and looking to knock real estate transactions off course. It isn’t a matter of if, but when these criminals will strike. They are waiting for you and your clients to let down your guard, but education is the key to putting these scammers out of the race.
The following statistics, according to the National Association of Realtors®, demonstrate that real estate cybercrimes are on the rise:
- In 2020, wire fraud affected around 13,638 victims in real estate and rentals.
- With over $213 million lost, 2020’s stats beat 2019 with a 17% increase.
- Real estate and rental wire fraud hits the top 10 at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center…coming in at #7.
Criminals can turn the purchase of a lifetime into a trail of deceit and heartache. So, how can we help homebuyers stay alert and attentive all the way to their welcome mat? Focus on answering these three questions:
How does wire fraud happen? Fraudsters hack and sift through each email looking for information concerning real estate transactions. They take over the email interactions by mimicking the agent, the closing company or the mortgage holder. Once they are in, these criminals simply switch out the wiring instructions. The homebuying process can be extremely fast paced, and the scammers are counting on the fast-paced nature of real estate transactions so they can sneak in and go unnoticed.
Realistically, how common is wire fraud? The stats above prove it is far more common than buyers may think. As an agent, it’s important to be proactive and educate your clients. Be honest; it’s important to be upfront concerning the dangers and how you will work with your client to ensure the safest settlement possible.
How can clients protect themselves? Fortunately, they have one of the greatest resources they need to protect themselves…YOU! Your experience in real estate can encourage them to be on the lookout for things that seem out of the ordinary.
Sharing the following four red flags with your clients creates a terrific team dedicated to keeping transactions safe and secure.
- Call…always call. As mentioned before, if something seems out of place, it probably is. Encourage your clients to call you, and confirm. It’s not only about safety; this allows you to remain at the center of the transaction and act as a trustworthy resource.
- Be diligent when receiving emails. Small changes can make a big difference in safeguarding your transactions, and scammers will create nearly identical email addresses or aliases. Look closely before replying with details from your transaction.
- Fraudsters will often ask for responses to happen very quickly and only by email. Slow down a bit, re-read what has been sent before replying.
- If you are suspicious, don’t respond to the email at all...even to ask for verification. Your response becomes an open door for the scammers to take advantage.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness month. Visit this amazing toolkit published by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) filled with content for you to share with your sphere.
Highland Title + Escrow also wants to remind you that we are here for your clients to make you look like the hero. Our team of experts are committed to the safety and security of each and every settlement…so much so that we have partnered with ZOCCAM and Notarize to offer next-level peace of mind. While we offer many closing options, we stay true to our goal…putting our expert knowledge to work for you during the biggest transaction of your clients’ lives.
Fill out this form to download this checklist so you and your clients are ready to combat wire fraud.