Before you read this week’s blog, check out our previous entries regarding wire fraud – Seven Ways to Combat the Red Flags of Wire Fraud and Four Tips to Prevent Wire Fraud in Real Estate Transactions. Why are we posting another wire fraud blog this week? The answer is that there can never be enough information, tips, or reminders shared. Wire fraud remains one of the biggest threats to real estate transactions and the people who are involved in what is often the biggest purchase or sale of their lives.
Highland Title + Escrow works with buyers and sellers to ensure that this experience is smooth and seamless. How do we do it? Find out exactly what our team of title professionals do everyday to protect your money and you throughout the entire closing process.
While buyers assume the highest risks of wire fraud, let’s take a minute to talk about how we protect our sellers. Bringing wiring instructions or a voided check to closing is the quickest, easiest, and most secure way to ensure that we deliver your funds to the correct account. If the seller provides the wrong information at closing and wishes to change the distribution instructions after closing but prior to disbursement, the seller will need to return to one of our locations to sign new instructions. We will not accept changes to the disbursement instructions through email or over the phone. While this may seem inconvenient, it is a sure way to prevent a scammer from infiltrating an email thread and stealing the seller’s funds.
For buyers, if they decide to wire funds to us for their closing, it is very important that they verify the wiring instructions by calling or coming by our office prior to sending the wire. If they decide to call the office to verify the wiring instructions, they should not use the phone number on the wiring instructions. The scammers will have their scamming phone number on the fake wiring instructions. Scammers are smart and will use an email address that appears very similar to the correct email address. They often make one small, undetectable change in a return email address, in addition to changing the phone number in the body of the email. (As an aside, this is a best practice across the board if you are requested to call a phone number in an email. Confirm it is the actual phone number of the company or agency you are trying to reach before making the call.) If you receive more than one set of wiring instructions, this is a huge red flag. Title companies very rarely change their escrow accounts. If you don’t like the idea of sending your funds by wire, you can always bring a certified or cashier’s check to closing instead. Reach out to us if you have any questions.
Check out the following safeguards in place to protect our buyers:
- Remote Online Notarization (RON) – This process offers multiple layers of protection, including proof of identity and authentication. The notary also has the ability to terminate the session should any concerns arise.
- Notarize – This platform offers the ability to connect with a notary 24/7…anytime, anywhere, from any device. Click here for instructions on how to get started.
- ZOCCAM – Highland Title + Escrow has partnered with ZOCCAM (click here for the setup process) to take the security risks out of each transaction by eliminating potential fraud through the following steps…
- Ensuring secure payment processing by eliminating the need for wiring instructions.
- All parties receive confirmation of delivery when the contract and earnest money deposit occurs.
- Eliminating costs associated with wire transfers and courier fees.
- Protecting your Non Personal Public Information (NPI) by taking out manual deposits from the escrow process while providing protection from possible security breaches due to mishandling of checks.
In addition to the points above, our title team’s experience helps them keep an eagle eye out for scammers and their tactics. Highland Title + Escrow is blessed with long-term team members who have worked through numerous transactions so they know what to look for regarding wire fraud red flags. They can assist you with any questions or concerns, and share tips that will help you be on the lookout.
Our top tip regarding wire fraud is the same every time; if you think something seems sketchy or out of place, it probably is. Call us at (703) 723-3300. You should never feel uncomfortable about reaching out to us; it is our privilege to help you through what can be a fast-paced, complex journey. You can also check out our website for more information regarding all of our services at Highland Title + Escrow.