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Recently, there has been an epidemic of wire fraud in real estate transactions. For the most part, this scam impacts buyers, although sellers have been victims in the past.
If you are selling a house and encounter wire fraud, the onus is on the escrow company. When sellers experience wire fraud, what usually happens is people will contact the escrow company claiming to be the sellers of a house and ask that the escrow company wire them money. If that happens to you, you will be reimbursed for the lost money. That said, this scam is not as common anymore.
Home buyers are getting bogus emails that say to wire your down payment into an account that is not the actual escrow account. There are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
1. Obtain the phone number of the escrow officer at the beginning of the transaction.
2. Do not ever wire funds prior to calling your escrow officer to confirm the wiring instructions. Only use the phone number that you were provided at the start of the transaction; some of these scammers include a phony number in the fake email. If you call that number, they will claim to be your escrow company even if they are just sitting in a basement or living room. Do not use any phone number other than the one included in the wire and transfer instructions.
3. Verbally confirm the wire transfer instructions as legitimate and confirm the bank routing number, account numbers, and other codes before taking steps to wire the funds.
4. Avoid sending personal information via email or text messaging. Provide that information in person or over the phone to the escrow officer.
5. Take steps to secure the system you are using with your email account. These steps include creating strong passwords, using secure Wi-Fi, and not using free services.
Please take these steps to secure your transaction; I don’t want you to get scammed. If you have any questions about wire fraud or about real estate in general, give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!