A woman's hand gripping a smart phone, getting ready to make a call

How to protect yourself from wire fraud

In Buyers, Homeowners, Sellers by Doug Phelps

Wiring money is a common practice in the home buying and selling process. Wiring money is an electronic transaction that happens between two entities, such as from a buyer’s bank account to a mortgage company to cover things like earnest money, down payment or closing costs. Mortgage companies also commonly pay the proceeds of a home sale through a wire transfer.   Unfortunately also becoming increasingly common is wire fraud. Wire fraud is when a scammer defrauds funds from an individual or company. Because wire fraud is an electronic transaction, a scammer can defraud through avenues like text or email.  So if you may soon be transferring money via a wire, how can you protect yourself?

1. Call instead of emailing

If you’re getting ready to wire money or receive money via a wire transfer and you need to confirm details then call the mortgage company or lender, do not send an email requesting the information.  Emails are very easy to hack and scammers could easily get very sensitive information to defraud a wire transfer.  When you do call the organization you will be transferring money from or to, make sure you get the contact information from an official business card. For example, the mortgage company should have their phone number on paperwork or business cards.  Do not trust an email with a phone number or even a website as it is easy to create spoof sites.  

2. Verify information and details

When you contact the bank or mortgage company, make sure you verify sending details, account details, and amounts.  Do not send money without verifying what you need to do, and where you are sending it.  Also be wary if you hear multiple different amounts, for example one amount in an email versus another amount said by the mortgage company.  Verify all these details by phone and don’t trust other sources.  Also confirm the recipient account’s name and the account number. Typically wire transfers are larger amounts so it is worth the due diligence.

3. Educate yourself

As with any kind of crime, educating yourself what to look for is the most important thing you can do in prevention.  Know that wire fraud commonly happens in electronic communication methods like text or email.  A mortgage company DOES NOT make it a practice to include sensitive payment instructions in a simple email.  Nor will this information come through in a text.  Also know that scammers can get very elaborate with spoof accounts, documents and websites so if something seems off then it’s best to confirm by directly calling the official number of the bank or mortgage company.  Watch out for things like misspellings or inconsistencies in contact information.  Keep in mind that wire fraud is increasingly common so it’s best to be on guard against anything that seems peculiar. You are never bothering a bank or mortgage company by calling to confirm important details so don’t worry about that.  And if you suspect a wire fraud may have happened, immediately call the bank and mortgage companies to let them know.  You may also need to get authorities involved.

Do you have another tip about how to protect yourself from wire fraud? Are you in the market to buy or sell your home?  Call and text me at (720) 323-4176 or email me at [email protected]

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