Cybercrime, including identity theft, is the largest and costliest segment of rising crime in the US today. And the Texas real estate industry is a huge target for electronic theft.
The FBI reported that over 27,000 people in Texas were known victims of cybercrime in 2019, with a total loss of more than $221 million. As if that isn’t bad enough, your real estate transaction could be next!
Wire fraud is rampant!
We’re all doing more business than ever online. And that’s not going away – it will only increase. To protect yourself and your hard-earned money, you must pay close attention to all forms of communication.
You will normally communicate with your agent, broker, and title company throughout your real estate transaction. Cybercriminals will often pose as legitimate participants in the transaction in an attempt to trick you into trusting them.
Here are some of the RED FLAGS:
- Email accounts can be hacked. Be suspicious of messages with money instructions. Especially if they contain changes or updates to wire details you previously received.
- A message to “resend” or “verify” instructions could be fraudulent.
- Do not call any number from the message you received.
- Call only known phone numbers.
- Beware of incoming calls regarding wire transfers. Know that phone numbers can be spoofed (the incoming number that shows on your phone is bogus). It may even be a number that you recognize. (Editors note: I’ve even had scam calls from my own phone number!)
- Real estate agents and brokers NEVER communicate wiring instructions. That should come from the title company only.
- BEFORE you send funds, call your title company at a phone number that you know is correct, and speak to your escrow agent to independently verify their instructions.
- After you wire funds with instructions you have independently verified, call your escrow agent to confirm the funds were received.
- If you suspect fraud, contact your bank and the FBI at once. The sooner you take action, the better the chances of recovering your funds.
As the last suggestion, sadly, be careful about what you share online. Criminals check social media to make their scams more convincing. They do it so often, there’s even a term for it: social engineering.
Please pay attention! Being alert may be your best protection against cybercrime during your real estate transaction.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be legal advice. North Point Realty provides this content for your consideration from the standpoint of a real estate professional. Always consult your attorney for legal advice.