Residential Real Estate Buyers

Wire Fraud – Your Downpayment is Gone, Now What??

Help, My Money is Gone!

Let me paint a picture for you, imagine you have found your perfect home that you spent months looking for and years saving for your down payment and you open escrow and you find out your money is gone.  Watch the short video to see how it happened What can you do? How can you get it back?

Act Fast to Recover From Wire Fraud

Start by contacting the bank where you transferred the money in addition to contacting the bank that received the funds. Ask for the branch manager at both banks and have a fraud alert sent to the receiving bank and insist that they place a fraud freeze on the account. You must act quickly so talk to the person who can make those decisions at the bank and insist the branch manager confirm whether your funds are still in that account. If the funds are not in the account, do not get off the phone until you have been assured the bank will alert any  other banks that received your funds, to place a fraud freeze on those accounts as well.

How Does This Happen?

You are excited you have come to the end of your escrow and you know the finish line is in sight and you will be receiving your keys in a few days.  All you have to do is wire your closing cost funds to escrow.  You pressed send, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are now being transferred.  You think all is well but instead you are now the latest victim of wire fraud.  Your money did not go to escrow.   Watch this video how hackers stole buyers $400,000.00 down payment. You unknowingly accepted fraudulent wire and disbursement instructions, that came in your email, and  you have just transferred all of your hard earned money to criminals.

What Steps Can I Take to Protect Myself?

  • ALWAYS verbally verify the closing instructions with your agent. Check with your real estate agent or the settlement agent before the closing process begins to verify what how the process will happen and how you’ll be expected to pay. Before completing any wire transaction, call immediately before to verbally confirm that you have the correct account numbers and there has been no tampering with your data.
  • Ask how the agent prefers to communicate. If your agent frequently calls you, but you suddenly uses email for a topic discussing sensitive information, you have every right and reason to suspect that something’s up.
  • Be smart about how you use email. In this day and age, email is essential. There’s nothing wrong with communicating via email, if you are smart about the information you are sending. Never send confidential or personal information via email and remember to confirm all important instructions with verbal verification! Even if you don’t end up being the victim of wire fraud, you don’t want your bank account information or your social security number floating around insecure.
  • Say “no” to free Wi-Fi. It’s so convenient to have a Wi-Fi connection pretty much wherever you go. But sometimes, that free Wi-Fi is a way for hackers to get access to your private data and accounts. Unless the Wi-Fi connection is password protected, it’s better to stay off of it.
  • Use complex passwords. Everyone should know by now that passwords like “password” or “pass1234” aren’t the best options to choose. Use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols in your password. Ask your real estate agent what his or her password policy is and if he or she changes it often. Easy-to-guess passwords put you all at an increased risk for being victims of wire fraud or another scam.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on strange links. Or, always use a virus scanner to check any attachments you receive, especially if you are unsure what the attachment is. Links that go to seemingly random or incorrect URLs should not be clicked either.   (Copied from Title Partners of South Florida)

Final Words

If you believe you have received questionable or suspicious wire or funds transfer instruction, immediately notify your bank, and the Escrow Officer.  Here are some additional sources that can also provide information:

Federal Bureau of Investigation

National White Collar Crime Center

On Guard Online

For More Information or Questions Complete the Form Below

Theresa Miller, Broker, Realtor, CEO
(310) 713-8459

We are Leroy & Theresa Miller with The M & M Team Realty. We are Residential Realtors working with clients to purchase, sell or lease. We specialize in clients who need to sell or purchase property due to life changing events (i.e. a divorce). We understand the urgency and sensitivity of the clients needs.

We are The M & M Team Realty, “The Answer to Your Life Changing Events”

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