COVID-19 and Wire Fraud

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In a time when we’re all pulling together (from a distance) to get through the COVID-19 emergency, cyber criminals are seeing it as another opportunity to attack. Reports of fake emails, texts, phishing, robocalls, dangerous links and more are already emerging related to COVID-19. At a time like this, we want to remind you of what can be done to protect your real estate transaction from wire fraud – one of the largest cybercrimes in the United States. In 2017 alone, more than 9,600 victims lost over $56 million to real estate wire fraud, according to the FBI.

At Old Republic Title, we recommend running through our wire fraud prevention drill. No matter the time, these steps can help every party in a real estate transaction prevent falling victim to wire fraud. Our drill consists of three important steps:

STOP!: If you receive an email or text with wiring instructions, do not reply. If you receive a phone call with wiring instructions, tell the caller you’re going to hang up to verify the information.

CALL: To make sure you have received a legitimate request, call a trusted phone number you have used before to contact the buyer, seller, agent, lender or escrow officer, or use a number written in the contract. Do NOT use a number listed in the email sent to you or call the number that texted you. There could be a fraudster on the other end of the call, ready to trick you into diverting funds to their account.

VERIFY: After calling a trusted number, talk to the person that the email, text or call was said to have come from. Verify that there has been a change to wiring instructions.

It is extremely rare that wiring instructions will change during a real estate transaction, so verify any change with all parties before you adjust your actions. By keeping this wire fraud drill in mind, you can do your part to stop funds from winding up in the hands of a cybercriminal.

Conditions are rapidly evolving across the country due to COVID-19, and many of Old Republic Title’s employees have begun working remotely as a result of restrictions and public health guidelines. No matter where we are working from, we are available to respond to your questions, concerns and needs in a timely manner.