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Wire Fraud- How to Protect Yourself as a Homebuyer

While wiring money has made transactions more convenient, it has also made us more vulnerable to new threat on the rise: Wire Fraud. What is Wire Fraud? Wire Fraud is when a hacker uses an email that appears to be sent by a real estate agent or title officer but is actually from a compromised address. The email will often direct the buyer to wire funds into an account (fraudulent) citing a last minute change in wiring instructions or payment information. Hackers can not only send homebuyers emails, but also monitor real estate agent’s email activity to watch for pending transactions. They can then hijack the wire intended to go to the title company by simply changing the routing number and account information. All of this behavior can easily slip through an unknowing buyer’s eyes.

Given this, buyers now more than ever need to be cautious even if they are tempted to rush the closing process due to a hot market. It is important for homebuyers to be aware of the risks and signs of a potential compromise, and know what steps to take if fraudulent activity is suspected. At Canyon Title, we urge you to always call your Canyon Title Escrow Officer to confirm the wiring instructions before sending any money.

Please read on for more information and tips on spotting Wire Fraud.

Wire Fraud – Signs to look for:

  1. Last minute email changes to wiring information (beneficiary and/or receiving bank changes) and requesting an email confirmation opposed to a phone confirmation.
  2. Emails with incorrect grammar, awkward sentence structures, or misspellings compared to previous emails.
  3. Requests made outside of normal business hours should be viewed with suspicion.
  4. Change in email address of sender.  Look for character substitutions (ex. O to 0). Note the following examples:

The real email address is “[email protected]” but one sees:

[email protected] ← the number “0” is suspect,
[email protected] ← the number “1” is suspect,
[email protected] ← the extra “e” is suspect,
[email protected] ← the lack of an “i” is suspect.

Tips to protect yourself:

If you suspect you fell victim and wired money:

  1. As soon as you suspect fraudulent activity IMMEDIATELY contact your bank and request a recall of the wire due to fraud. It’s important to act quickly because money can be transferred out of an account and sent offshore within 24 to 72 hours.
  2. Notify your Canyon Title escrow officer and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
  3. If the money is still in the account, it may be able to be frozen.