Wire fraud schemes targeting home buyers and sellers, attorneys, and settlement agents continue to increase in frequency and scope. The fraudsters are attempting to divert sellers’ proceeds and buyers’ incoming funds by intercepting e-mails containing wire instructions, changing the content of the email and the wire instructions in the e-mail attachments, and redirecting funds. Often this occurs via hacking or stealing the e-mail accounts of a closing officer, attorney, lender or realtor. In another variation, the fraudster emails the title company directly after having hacked the seller’s e-mail account, then asking the closer to wire the proceeds to a particular account.
To combat this problem, it is now the policy of our in house title insurance agency and escrow settlement services provider, Bond Title Services, to no longer send a seller’s net proceeds from a real estate closing via wire transfer. Instead, a check will be issued which our clients can deposit in their bank immediately after closing.
Also, when representing real estate buyers, we will assist with obtaining wire instructions for the title company which is handling the closing. Since federal law requires that all down payments in excess of $50,000 be made by wire transfer, we direct all our clients to call the title company before sending their funds to verify that the instructions they were given are accurate. We have also endeavored to provide wire instructions by fax or regular mail to avoid the e-mail hacking schemes described above.
Real estate purchases and sales can involve large sums of money. We will do everything we can to make sure your funds are protected.