Electronic communications such as email, text messages and social media messaging, are neither secure nor confidential. While Whipple Title Agency, LLC has adopted policies and procedures to aid in avoiding fraud, even the best security protections can still be bypassed by unauthorized parties. We will never send you any electronic communication with instructions to transfer funds or to provide nonpublic personal information, such as credit card or debit numbers or bank account and/or routing numbers.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), over 11,300 victims lost $150 million to real estate wire fraud in 2018 – a 166 percent increase in total money lost from the previous year. The scheme, called business email compromise, involves fraudsters who use deceptive techniques to hack the email account of one or more of the parties involved in the real estate transaction. The cybercriminal then monitors the email traffic and gathers transaction details and graphics to send spoofed communications that look real, but direct buyers to wire funds into the fraudster’s account. Too often, unsuspecting victims don’t realize their money is gone until it’s too late to get it back.
It’s easy to be fooled by cybercriminals if you let your guard down, but with knowledge and preparation, you can avoid becoming a victim.
Tips for Preventing Wire Fraud
- Secure your devices and accounts. Securing your computer, phone and mobile devices, and practicing good email and password hygiene can make you less vulnerable to any cybercrime.
- Be vigilant. All parties to a real estate transaction are potential targets. However, cybercriminals tend to prey on older buyers who they believe may have limited knowledge of cybersecurity or wire transfer protocols.
- Learn your title company’s process for wiring funds. Many companies have policies against emailing wiring instructions. Ask your closing agent for a list of approved contacts and wiring instructions at the beginning of your transaction. Keep them handy to use as a reference.
- Slow down. Fraudsters work hard to lull buyers into a false sense of security, so they don’t take the time to scrutinize requests. Always check the sender’s email address for irregularities. When responding to an email, use “forward” instead of “reply.” Typing in a trusted email address lowers your chance of accidentally replying to the cybercriminal that sent you a spoofed email.
- Be suspicious of any changes to wiring instructions, especially on Fridays or before holidays. Changes to wiring instructions are rare and should only come from your closing agent. Since it takes 72 hours to wire money, fraudsters often request wire changes on a Friday or just before a holiday, so the funds are gone by the time anyone notices. There is little your financial institution can do to recover funds once they are wired into a new account.
For more tips and resources for preventing wire fraud, visit https://stopwirefraud.org/.
If You Think You Might Be a Victim of Wire Fraud
If you receive any electronic communication directing you to transfer funds or provide nonpublic personal information, EVEN IF THAT ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION APPEARS TO BE FROM Whipple Title Agency, LLC, do not respond to it and immediately contact us. Such requests, even if they may otherwise appear to be from Whipple Title Agency, LLC are likely part of a scheme to defraud you by stealing funds from you or using your identity to commit a crime. Always be sure to contact us to verify instructions. Call us at 330-477-3589 for instructions and any questions or concerns you may have about wire fraud.