While October is widely known for Halloween, the Highland Title + Escrow team wanted to share our thoughts regarding National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. We have shared our thoughts in blogs before (here, here and here) regarding real estate wire fraud but are firm believers that we must continually revisit it because scammers are still scamming.
Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you have ever made, especially if you are a first-time buyer. If you have ever read an article or listened to a podcast regarding wire fraud, these often include downright scary statistics, but the truth is much of this data is based on victims who have reported the crime. Many who have been affected by scams often feel embarrassed or foolish to have been taken advantage of, but if you leave here remembering nothing else, please remember to report any experiences regarding fraud here. Many scammers fall through the cracks when we fail to report, so let’s work together to bring them down.
Now, let’s get down to business regarding what to look for when in the closing process.
- Ensure your devices and accounts are protected through multi-factor authentication and strong passwords. You will be excited about buying or selling your home and may want to share that information through social media, so protect those accounts.
- Knowing the settlement process can help ease any concerns regarding wire fraud. Ask as many questions as you need to understand what is happening with your money and where it is throughout the entire transaction.
- Scammers find their way in by hacking and acting as a participant in an active settlement at the right time. They may act as your lender or agent through email or call. Add your agent, lender, or another party to your address lists or phone contacts. Settlements are often thrown off course by one or two character changes in email addresses or unsecured accounts.
- Scammers often play on your emotions. They may say, “To avoid delay in your settlement,” and “Wire the money today.” If any form of communication requests action, call the party you THINK the email is from to confirm. Please do not call the number from the questionable email; it could be one digit off. Ensure that the numbers match the ones you know.
- Confirm wiring instructions with the title company, and confirm when the funds have been transferred to the correct party. It may seem overkill, but take just a moment to think about the time it will take to get your money back from a scammer who instantly starts moving it once it’s received. It is worth the time it takes to confirm anything and everything.
We want October to be remembered for treats only, so note these tips to help your settlement. Take a minute to read over all communications, including the subject lines and return email address. We also want you to contact us or call us at 703-723-3300 if anything seems off.