Recently our company received multiple notifications from Title Companies that there are attempts to highjack funds prior to closing by fraudsters pretending to send emails from the Title Company. Several clients from other vendors have had their closing funds stolen by receiving fraudulent changes to wiring instructions, and have had to come up with the additional funds to close on their home. Often, those funds are lost and unrecoverable, as the accounts can be closed or wiped out immediately after wire transfer leaving no traces behind. Some fraud attempts occur from overseas as well.
Be aware that the bank and the title company should be sending you information that is encrypted, which greatly cuts down or eliminates the potential for fraud, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. If you receive an email purporting to come from your bank or title company prior to closing that makes last minute changes to the funds or how to wire funds, be sure to check directly with your contact at your Lender or with the closer at the Title Company to ensure that fraud is not being attempted and to safeguard your funds.
Here are some ways to safeguard your transaction and ensure you are not being solicited by a fraudulent email trap;
- Don’t click on suspicious emails, attachments or links; if you do not know who the email is from just send to your SPAM folder and delete. I accidentally did this once and had to file a fraud claim with my bank, and close and reopen a new account to avoid future fraud issues just from opening an email.
- Avoid using free, web-based email accounts for Business Communications. You don’t know how good their firewalls are if you get it for free.
- Create a log of all approved parties’ phone numbers at the start of a transaction, Buyers Real Estate Group can provide you a Closing Worksheet which has all the appropriate information you will need.
- Remember, Transactions that result in a large cash payment to a Title Company or other entity are highly susceptible to attack.
- Question and Confirm by phone with approved parties any deviation to the funding agreement; changes are not common and may indicate fraud.
- Confirm wiring instruction by phone with approved parties prior to sending.
- Confirm receipt of wired funds by phone with the intended recipient, I ask my closers to confirm to both myself and the buyer when funds are received.
- If you suspect fraud, act immediately; contact your bank and appropriate authorities. The faster you move on this the more likely the suspects can be caught.
- Install and keep up-to-date virus software on your computer.
- Keep your fire wall turned on.
- Be careful what you download.
- Do Not Use Personal Information for Passwords: Rather, include at least one Upper/Lower case letter; one special character; one number, etc so the password will be harder to crack.
- Avoid Websites you don’t trust.
- Use Strong Passwords and Change them every 90 Days.
- Encrypt all emails containing wire transfer instructions or other business-sensitive data to ensure safety.
- Slow down and stay in control: A slow, confirmed closing is desirable to ensure a safe and secure transaction.