With scammers increasingly targeting real estate transactions, the National Association of REALTORS® is teaming up with the FBI and brokerage Realty Executives International to educate the industry on how to identify and help clients avoid wire fraud schemes. A particular cause for concern is hackers who send fake emails to home buyers on the cusp of closing on a property purchase, providing bogus wiring instructions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen from consumers who fall prey to such scams.
“We believe the way to stop these scammers in their tracks is by educating clients to identify, avoid, and report potential fraud,” says Alysia Heun, vice president of franchise services at Realty Executives. “By raising awareness in the real estate industry on how these scams are being carried out, we can create a united front fighting against and working to shut down this devastating trend.”
Realty Executives highlights three ways to help protect buyers from scammers:
- Pay attention to how wire instructions are sent. It is best to only accept instructions that are secure and encrypted.
- Before buyers wire funds to an individual or company, urge them to call to verify the wire instructions independently with the title company or closing agent.
- Be very watchful of any changes. Inform your clients that wire instructions rarely change. If they receive an email saying that any wiring instructions have changed, urge them to confirm the validity with the real estate agent or title company.
“The best defense against this type of scam is having multiple checkpoints with your title company and agent to ensure everything you are being instructed to do is legit—and phone is best. Just make sure you’re talking to the right person,” Realty Executives urges in a blog post.
“Three Steps to Preventing Wire Fraud,” Realty Executives (Jan. 16, 2018)