Having a plan before disaster strikes is the best way to stay safe. We know and practice this from the time we’re young. Fire, tornado and earthquake drills are all used to help us avoid danger.
In the world of title insurance and real estate settlements, one of the biggest threats to our customers and business is wire fraud. It involves schemes to intercept wired funds that are being transferred during real estate transactions. Real estate wire fraud is one of the largest cybercrimes in the United States, with more than 9,600 victims losing over $56 million in 2017 alone, according to the FBI.
To protect against this growing threat, running through a wire fraud prevention “drill” can help every party in a real estate transaction know how to stay safe.
At Old Republic Title, our wire fraud 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.