Suspect Real Estate Wire Fraud? Act Fast!

Attention real estate customers: If you receive an unexpected change to wiring instructions before closing day: be very suspicious – even if the request looks official, contains accurate details about your transaction and appears to come from someone you trust.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sophisticated scammers duped 11,300 victims out of $150 million in 2018, due to real estate wire fraud, and the number of victims and total money lost keeps growing.

If you recently complied with one of these changed requests, you could already be a victim of wire fraud and need to act fast. Reporting the incident within 72 hours of authorizing the wire transfer gives you the best chance of getting your money back. Follow the steps below to know for sure and start the recovery process.

Step 1: VERIFY

Call the real person, not the alleged sender of the wiring instructions, using a known, trusted phone number. (NEVER use any contact information from the communication.) Ask if the trusted source sent the new wiring instructions. If not, and you already wired funds, you are a victim of wire fraud.

Step 2: CALL YOUR CLOSING AGENT

Call your closing agent (usually your title company). They will notify other parties involved in the transaction and follow their company’s procedures for responding to wire fraud.

Step 3: NOTIFY SENDING & RECEIVING BANKS

    • Call your bank’s fraud department. Ask the sending bank to recall the wire sent to the receiving bank because of fraud and provide the details for the wire.
    • Ask the sending bank to initiate the FBI’s Financial Fraud Kill Chain if the amount of the wire transfer is $50,000 or above; the wire transfer is international; a SWIFT recall notice has been initiated; and the wire transfer has occurred within the last 72 hours.
    • Call the receiving bank’s fraud department to notify them that you have requested a recall of the wire because of fraud. Provide the details for the wire and request that the account be frozen.

Step 4: REPORT TO LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT

Step 5: CONFIRM WIRE RECALL

Call the sending bank back to confirm that the wire recall request was processed.

Step 6: FILE A COMPLAINT WITH IC3

Filing a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) helps streamline communication between financial institutions and law enforcement to expedite the recovery of funds involved in fraudulent domestic transfers.

Visit www.ic3.gov and provide the following information to support your claim:

    • Victim's name, address, telephone and email
    • Financial transaction information (e.g., account information, transaction date and amount, who received the money)
    • Subject's name, address, telephone, email, website and IP address
    • Specific details on how you were victimized
    • If you received a spoofed email that appears to come from a legitimate business, copy and save the email header.
    • Any other relevant information

Step 7:  SECURE YOUR ACCOUNTS & DEVICES

Fraudsters have been known to hack the personal email accounts of clients associated with business email compromise, so it’s recommended you:

    • Change all passwords immediately.
    • Set up two-factor authentication, whenever possible, for services accessed through the internet, such as email, banking and social media.
    • Disconnect your computer, smart phone and other mobile devices from the internet, in the event they are infected with malware. Security experts recommend having these devices evaluated by a professional who can identify and address security threats.

Unfortunately, once your money is wired into a new account, you are not likely to get it back. The FBI has no jurisdiction to recover money in offshore accounts. If you have the resources, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer in that country to recover what you can. Most banks do not reimburse funds lost to fraud. Learning and following best practices for preventing wire fraud can help protect your funds in the future.