“ALWAYS VERIFY wire instructions, specifically the ABA routing number and account number, by calling the party who sent the instructions to you. DO NOT use the phone number provided in the email containing the instructions, use phone numbers you have called before or can otherwise verify. Obtain the number of your Realtor®, Real Estate Broker and your escrow officer as soon as an escrow account is opened. DO NOT send an email to verify as the email address may be incorrect or the email may be intercepted by the fraudster,” Susan Wehrle, Vice President of Select Title Group said.
These words of advice are becoming more and more prevalent in the real estate industry, due to the recent increase in wire transfer fraud this past year. According to FORTUNE, wire transfer crimes nearly $5.3 billion were fraudulently sought over email just last year. Real estate transactions have become more of a target, likely due to the large sums of money involved, and the ease of mistaken information, with so many individuals working within a single purchase (buyer, seller, title officer, etc.). The St. Louis area has also seen an increase in these cases in recent months.
To combat this issue, we have come up with 5 tips to help recognize a fraudulent wire transfer request.
- Look out for unusual language – If an email the client receives contains language that doesn’t sound like it would be from an agent or loan officer, call to verify who sent it.
- Pay attention to professionalism – If the communication doesn’t have proper punctuation, grammar or any logos/company info, that could be a red flag that the sender doesn’t work for Select Properties or Select Title Group.
- Odd hours – If a client receives an email at an odd hour, such as 3am, it is likely not from an agent or officer, as they should try to contact a client at a time that is convenient for the client’s schedule.
- Check the email address – If the email isn’t a business email address from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties or Select Title Group, do not reply. Select Properties agents and Select Title loan officers will only ever send communication from a safe and secure business email.
- Never answer an email regarding wire transfers – All Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Agents, as well as our Select Title team members will discuss any transferring of funds with a client via the phone or in person; never online.