Over 6 million homes were sold in the U.S. in 2021 and it’s expected that the same amount will be sold in 2022. With so many housing transactions and the market moving so quickly, it’s no wonder scammers are finding ways to take advantage of this housing market boom. If you are purchasing a new home soon, it’s crucial to be aware of real estate wire fraud.
What is Real Estate Wire Fraud?
Real estate wire fraud occurs when someone poses as your real estate or escrow agent in order to convince you to send your closing costs to a fraudulent account. This type of fraud is often carried out by email or telephone using phishing or spoofing. The scammer might use an email address or phone number that is similar to your agent’s contact information. The message will often include personal information to try to prove its legitimacy. The sammer will request that you send your escrow or closing cost to a particular account. Because the message looks legitimate and you’re often in a hurry when purchasing a home, you may send the funds without thinking twice. However, once you send the money the scammer will disappear and they leave you with no way to recover your funds.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from real estate wire fraud:
- Never send money to someone who you have not met in person.
- If someone contacts you offering to help you with a financial transaction, do your research to make sure that they are legitimate.
- Don’t make payments using unusual methods like gift cards, cryptocurrency or prepaid debit cards.
By following these simple tips, you can protect yourself during the home buying process.
Immediate Action Steps
If you think you may have been the victim of real estate wire fraud, take action right away. Here are some steps to take to protect yourself and your finances:
- Contact your bank or wire transfer company right away if you wire money. If you report it to them quickly, they may be able to help you cancel the transaction or get your money back.
- If you paid using gift cards, contact the issuer. They may be able to help you stop the transaction.
- If you provided personal information, like your Social Security number, you may be at risk for identity theft. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will make it harder for the scammer to open new accounts in your name.
- Keep all documentation related to the scam, including any emails, messages or paperwork. This will be helpful if you file a police report or take legal action against the scammer.
- Consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in real estate law. They can give you advice on how to proceed with your case.
- Report the crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
If you believe that you may have been a victim of this type of fraud, it is important to take action immediately. By contacting the appropriate authorities right away, they may be able to help you investigate the matter and get your money back. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t let a scammer steal your hard-earned money. Be aware of the signs of this type of fraud and take steps to protect yourself.
To learn more about scams involving real estate, visit our real estate scam page.