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The growing risk of real estate wire fraud

When you’re investing in real estate, you know that money needs to change hands. Naturally, you don’t want to carry that kind of cash around with you, so most people wire the money directly from one bank to another — and that’s what today’s thieves are counting on.

Real estate wire fraud is a bigger problem than most people realize — and the issue is getting worse. In 2018 alone, there were about 11,300 cases of wire fraud in the real estate industry alone.

How does real estate wire fraud happen?

Most of the time, thieves manage to “phish” the unsuspecting victim by assuming the online identity of the victim’s real estate agent, a title company involved in the transaction or one of the attorneys. Typically they use email, conveniently providing the victim with the wiring instructions to the bank account they’ve set up for this purpose. As soon as the victim sends the money, they empty the account and vanish.

Hackers are constantly intercepting emails from real estate agents and title companies so that they can both find potential victims and refine their approach. It isn’t unusual for a fake email to include legitimate copies of closing documents and references to earlier conversations to give the victim the illusion that everything is legit.

What can be done to prevent a disaster?

When thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of dollars are at risk, there’s a simple, low-tech solution to the problem of wire fraud: A phone call. It takes very little time or effort to call the email’s alleged sender and verify the request (and the routing instructions).

Whether you’re the victim of real estate wire fraud or accused of some kind of impropriety, you need to act quickly to protect your investment. An experienced advocate can show you how.