A wire, or wire transfer, is an electronic transfer of money across a network from one bank or credit union to another. With a wire, no physical money moves between bank locations, but people or entities are able to “wire” money to another person or entity as long as they have a bank account. Wires are typically used in most real estate transactions because funds are received more quickly (usually the same day), and there are no holds placed on the money once received.
Wire fraud typically involves a hacker gaining access to an email account and posing as a trusted party involved in your real estate transaction. This could be someone pretending to be your real estate agent, loan officer, title agent, or even an attorney. Once the hacker has access to a trusted email account, the hacker sends an email from that account or from a similar account that looks “almost” the same as one of the parties in the transaction – with information related to your transaction, including wire instructions for your closing funds. If you react to that email, your funds are sent to an account controlled by the hacker in some manner. Once receipt of the money is confirmed, the hacker immediately withdrawals your funds from that account using multiple transfers to accounts normally outside the United States. Once these transfers occur, the likelihood of recovery is small, if at all.
Wire instructions are the directions you follow when sending money electronically to another person or entity. In the case of your home purchase, the funds are typically sent to your settlement agent. Wire instructions typically include:
- Bank Name and Address
- Bank ABA Number
- Bank Account Number
- Account Holder’s Name
- Reference Information (in real estate transactions, this is usually a file number)
If you think you may have been the victim of wire fraud, here are some steps you must take. Time is of the essence – every second and minute counts. Contact banks, transaction parties, and law enforcement immediately upon discovery.
- Immediately call your bank
- Ask them to issue a recall notice due to fraud for your wire
- Ask them to reach out to the receiving bank’s fraud department to:
- Notify them of the recall due to fraud
- Ask for a freeze on the account involved
- Report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
- Report the crime to Law Enforcement
Wire fraud is real and home buyers and sellers are the biggest targets. For this reason, we have developed the WireSafe program to help educate customerson wire fraud. Be WireSafe by following these 4 steps every time.
- CALL, DON'T EMAIL
Confirm all wiring instructions, including specific banking information, by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone number for your closing agent/escrow officer provided on their website or from a business card. Never rely on phone numbers in email communications.
- BE SUSPICIOUS
It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment information.
- CONFIRM EVERYTHING
Ask your bank to confirm the account number and the name on the account before sending any wire.
- VERIFY IMMEDIATELY
Call your closing agent/escrow officer to confirm the funds were received.
Remember to inquire before you wire. Be WireSafe.