Warning to Consumers About Wire Fraud Schemes When Purchasing a Home.
Also, beware of email schemes commonly called “phishing emails”.
Several national trade groups, including the Escrow Association and ALTA have urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to issue an alert warning consumers about wire fraud schemes attempting to steal funds for real estate closings.
Despite efforts by the title and escrow industries to educate consumers about the risk, homebuyers continue to be targeted. With the spring home buying season underway, it’s vital to continue raising awareness about these schemes. The CFPB should take this opportunity to protect consumers from criminals looking to steal their money.
North Orange County Escrow can provide tips on how consumers can protect themselves and questions to ask to help determine if real estate professionals have procedures in place to protect their money.
“Unfortunately, these criminals frequently target homebuyers prior to the title or escrow company getting involved in the transaction,” ALTA said. “In many instances, they obtain access to unsecure email accounts used by consumers or real estate professionals. They use this access to find transaction patterns and details to make their fraudulent communications seem legitimate. The criminals will instruct the buyers to send the funds to a different account and the money vanishes in minutes.”
Before you wire, please confirm directly with your escrow officer the bank information and account. Also, be aware our escrow officer will require written, signed instructions for wire and will also contact you to confirm prior to any outgoing wires. Do not give any wire instructions by email. Information from your email account is the target for the those that want your money.
Hackers are not going away, and their schemes are getting more creative at trying to trick you.
Look out for email schemes commonly called “phishing emails,” which usually feature a professional-looking logo of the company they are claiming to be. Also a phishing email will often urge you to act quickly trying to scare you by saying that an account of yours, or your computer itself, has been compromised.
A warning that phishing emails often come with a virus which could give the hacker access to your computer, and ultimately your personal data.
When you look in your email, you want to be sure that the attachments that are coming in your email are legitimate. You want to be careful of anything with a .zip or .exe, those are usually pretty malicious.
You can also know a phishing email from a real one by looking closely for typos and misspellings.
If you have a question about whether an email is real or a scheme, stop! Don’t open it or click on any attachments or links with in the email. Instead, pick up the phone and call the company in question. Be sure to use the phone number of the company that you have on record or looked up; not the one listed in the email.