Beware of Wire Fraud

May 16, 2019

BEWARE! Wire transferring money on real estate transactions could cost you your life savings. We continue to advise our clients in residential real estate transactions, and in commercial real estate transactions, that they should be extremely careful about putting personal information (such as social security numbers and bank accounts) in any emails, and when they are wiring funds to an attorney’s office, a real estate agency, or a title company.

Recently one of our clients was about to close on a home purchase when he received an email instructing him to wire the closing funds to someone the client thought was the title company. The email that the client received appeared to be from the client’s attorney. It turned out to be a scam. The money the client would have wired would not have gone to the title company, but to an unknown bank account based in Florida. Had the client done what he was instructed to do in the email, the client would have lost all of the wire-transferred money – and also the home the client wished to purchase.

Fortunately, the client called Clair Law “just to verify” the wire instructions, and our office was able to save this client from disaster.

One mistake could cost your life savings. There is usually almost no recourse to be taken. Hackers are attracted to real estate closings because of the large amount of money that is protected by very little security. On-line criminals impersonate real estate agents, attorneys, and title companies in an effort to trick buyers into sending money to off-shore bank accounts. These criminal hackers are both patient and clever, and could be monitoring your online presence for months just waiting for the perfect time to strike.

Beware of email instructions concerning wire transfers. Unsecured email and mobile devices are particularly at risk, and clients are vulnerable at emotional times with tight deadlines, whether it be a residential closing, or a commercial real estate transaction.

The most important component of protecting one’s self from wire fraud is communication. Always pick up the phone and call the title company directly. Make sure to use the phone number on their business card, as opposed to an email signature – in case a scammer has changed that as well. Even PDF documents that are attached to unsecured emails can be hacked and changed.

Home buyers and commercial buyers should be on alert. Do not inadvertently become a victim of a hacker or scammer. The purchase of a home is usually your largest purchase, and you should take all steps to protect your life savings. Clair Law has upgraded its personal security and uses safe, encrypted email practices in order to assist our clients in protecting their life savings.