The home selling season is heating up, and scammers are eager to defraud buyers and sellers once again. It’s an annual dance that puts your hard-earned funds at risk—potentially tens of thousands of dollars—so educate yourself about the possible pitfalls before you move in 2018.
Closing or Wire Transfer Scams
When you apply for a mortgage, you’ll receive a large amount of correspondence from your financial institution. Be on alert if you receive an email asking you to change wire transfer instructions or other agreed upon terms.
It’s important to know that money transactions done through wire transfers can be difficult to reverse, and the money can be hard to get back. One Texas woman almost lost $52,000 in a wire transfer scam last year. Her title company had been hacked and the scammers sent her an email that hooked this unsuspecting first-time buyer. Fortunately, she acted rapidly and was able to recover most of her funds.
The problem of mortgage-closing scams is so pervasive that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a warning to potential homebuyers. In short, it tells consumers to be cautious if asked to make any last-minute changes in how funds will be transferred and to take steps to ensure the requests are valid. Fraudulent requests could appear to come from your realtor, the title company, or your attorney. Before moving any money, contact the email’s sender by phone to confirm the change is legitimate.
The Malware-Riddled Spam Scam
Are you familiar with DocuSign? It’s a web-based service that lets home buyers and sellers exchange offers, contracts, and other paperwork electronically. In 2017, cybercriminals stole customer email addresses from the company and created spam campaigns appearing to be legitimate. Anyone who opened the Word document attachments were exposed to malware. It’s easy to understand why victims clicked when you read the compelling subject lines used by spammers:
- Wire transfer for recipient-name Document Ready for Signature
- Accounting Invoice [Number] Document Ready for Signature
Security expert and blogger Graham Cluley warned that individuals who use DocuSign frequently need to slow down and weigh the risks of a potential phishing email before clicking on emailed documents or links. That’s good advice for all of us.
See Something, Say Something
If you’re the victim of a wire transfer scam, or if you spot a bogus email, file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. The sooner the better.
Home buying should be an exciting adventure and it can be if you dodge the traps that scammers create. Take the time to confirm all email directions to help safeguard your funds.