Wire Fraud Awareness
The best defense to wire fraud is being alert!
American Land Title Association (ALTA) reported that in 2018 alone there were more than 11,000 victims of real estate wire fraud in the US. Those victims lost nearly $150 million. Interestingly, even though 75 percent of customers had been warned about wire fraud, most were not worried that it might happen to them.
It’s important that parties to real estate transactions educate themselves about real estate wire fraud and how to prevent and detect it. Although real estate professionals and title companies might be obvious marks for hackers, every party to the transaction is a potential weak link that can provide information to fraudsters. And every party needs to use standard Internet and email safety, such as installing antimalware software, firewalls, installing security patches, and not clicking on links in suspicious emails.
What do I do?
It is important to be informed and aware of the entire process. When in doubt, call your title agent, REALTOR® or Lender. And call from an established number such as your phone directory, or a verified website. Be careful to trust contact information from an email as fraudulent emails will provide fraudulent contact information. It is also important to be prepared and informed about what to do immediately if you feel you have become a victim of wire fraud.
Time is not your friend! A wire transfer overseas can only be pulled back within a short time frame. It usually takes input from the FBI to make that happen. Typically, if more than 72 hours has passed, there is very little hope. So it is critical that you act fast if you suspect you are a victim of wire fraud.
Here are a few tips for you if you feel you have been a victim of wire fraud:
Alert Your Bank! According to Alan Winchester of Harris Beach PLLC, your bank "will often need to issue a hold harmless letter to the receiving bank; because ultimately, the receiving bank is being asked to go against the interest of the account holder, which violates that bank’s fiduciary duty. Make sure the victim’s bank issues this letter and alerts the receiving bank. Get this in writing. If there is a transaction number, get that as well."
Gather all of your documents associated with the fraud including the amount of the transfer, your bank information, name and address of recipient bank as well as account, and the bank routing number/account number and SWIFT code for the recipient bank.
Contact your local police department as well as your Regional FBI Office.
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