Real estate fraud schemes are on the rise. One common scenario is altering wiring instructions with the intention of stealing funds.
What is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud is an act of fraud that uses electronic communications, such as telephone, email, or text, to obtain money.
Wire fraud occurs when a bad actor steals money based on false representation or promises. For example, you may receive wire instructions which appear to be from your title company, escrow officer, or lender, when in fact they are from a fraudster.
Wire Fraud Facts
Unfortunately, real estate cybercrime—including wire fraud—is on the rise, nationwide. Fraudsters remain persistent with their attacks and, if they succeed, the impact can be devastating. Luckily, knowing what to look out for can help reduce your risk of wire fraud.
In 2021, U.S consumers
to real estate cybercrime, a
64% increase over the amount lost in 2020.1
In a nationwide survey
conducted by the
American Land Title
46% of title agents
reported at least one
wire fraud attempt
of funds stolen
through wire fraud
could not be fully
According to ALTA, over
of 2021 wire fraud
training and education3
Wire Fraud Red Flags
As wire fraud risk increases, it is more important than ever to watch out for common red flags in your closing communications. Consider the following 7 tips to detect fraud:
Sender’s email address is different (even slightly) from a prior confirmed email address. Tip! When reading email from a mobile device, click on the sender’s name to view the complete email address.
Changes to wiring instructions, such as new routing or bank account numbers.
Words indicating friendship or trust, such as "friend" or "pal", or that are overly thankful or complimentary.
Urgent language that expresses a negative outcome, such as "concern," "don’t," "prevent," or "avoid."
Font or type size that is different from the rest of the document.
Unusual grammar, incorrect punctuation, odd spacing or capitalization may be an indication of someone trying to commit fraud.
Beware of last-minute closing changes and rushes.
Protect Your Money
From Wire Fraud
This video from ALTA highlights tips to help protect your money and advice for what to do if you’ve been targeted by a scam. (Opens ALTA video in new window on YouTube)
Wire Fraud Precautions
- Verify that the wiring information you received is from your escrow company by contacting them at a valid phone number, not one provided in a potentially fraudulent email.
- Ensure you confirm the wire before sending and let the recipient know that funds are on the way so they can confirm receipt.
- Monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions.
- Report any unauthorized transactions to your bank immediately.
- Do not share your online banking logon credentials (user ID and password) with anyone.
- Do not share your bank account number with anyone who does not need it.
- Never access your bank account using a public Wi-Fi or a shared computer (e.g., at the library or a hotel business office).
- Install a firewall on your computer to prevent unauthorized access.
What to Do if You Think
You’ve Been Targeted4
- Immediately report the fraud to your bank and request a Wire Fraud Recall.
- Report the problem to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov.
- Contact regional FBI and local police.
- Report the scam to the FTC.
- Inform all affected or potentially affected parties, including your escrow officer or settlement agent.
- Change the passwords to your email and financial accounts.
How to Report Wire Fraud to the FBI
The sad reality is wire fraud is on the rise. Law enforcement is overwhelmed with the volume of cases. You should always report wire fraud but, many times, there is not much law enforcement agencies can do to recover stolen funds. After victims wire money to a fraudster’s account, the bad actors break up the wire quickly to evade authorities, often moving the money to foreign accounts or cryptocurrency.
How to Report Wire Fraud to the FBI
This video from the American Land Title Association walks through how to report attempted wire fraud to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. (Opens ALTA video in new window on YouTube)
When Working with Us: For Your Safety
First American will never ask you for passwords or personal financial information via email. If you receive any email requests or instructions to change payments or wire instructions, please contact your First American representative directly. Remember, our bank is always First American Trust.
Additional Consumer Protection Information
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed protection from wire fraud. The above tips can help reduce risk, but this is not an exhaustive list of all cybersecurity best practices. Please remain vigilant and, for more information, review the references below.
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Report Suspicious Activity
If you are a current First American customer, please report any suspicious activity directly to your First American representative through an independently verified telephone number.
If you are not a current customer, be cautious of:
- Phishing emails or websites spoofing First American.
- Unexpected phone calls from someone claiming to be a First American employee.
- Questionable text messages about your First American account or activity.
If you encounter any of the above, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you verify the message or website.
Nothing is too trivial to report. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a message from us, please report it.