Internet thieves, AKA phishermen, are doing better and better business every day because they get better and better at scamming people out of the money they need to purchase and/or sell homes. What are the scams? Fake emails, fake texts, fake copycat websites that get us to share our passwords, bank account numbers, social security numbers, email addresses, username logins, etc. so they can intercept money being transferred electronically.
For the record, the FBI refers to these scams as Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Business Email Spoofing (BES). According to the FBI, one in 9 emails is a phishing attack. According to the FBI, there has been an increase of 1,100% in fraud reports since 2017. And according to the FBI, reported losses to BEC scams have increased 2,200% since 2017.
Real estate clients who have been scammed are suing agents, brokers, and title companies. Try your very best to NOT be one of those agents being sued.
Here are some tips to help reduce the chances of your clients AND you becoming victim of phishing scams and wire fraud from John Giffin, director of broker operations for Benchmark Realty in Tennessee, writing for InmanNews:
- Educate your clients, especially your buyers, about scamming and wire fraud.
- Explain to your client to NEVER accept wiring instructions from another agent or broker.
- Explain to your client to get wiring instructions ONLY and DIRECTLY from the attorney, title company and or lender involved with the transaction.
- Any emailed instructions should be secured.
- All funds need to be confirmed and verified before transferring them between the financial institution and attorney and/or title company.
- Call the closing attorney/title company/lender after the client verifies the phone number from a known third party source such as the entity’s official website.
- Make a personal visit to the closing attorney/title company/lender.
- Verify the financial institution’s representative who is wiring the funds.
- Follow-up with a phone call.
- Request a written confirmation of the wiring request.
- Tell your clients to NEVER use public Wi-Fi networks to send wiring instructions…ONLY send wiring instructions on secured networks.
- Tell your client to tell the financial institution that wiring instructions are NOT to be substituted without the client’s prior written consent.
- Wiring instructions do NOT change.
- Tell you clients it’s more than okay to be suspicious of anything.
- If suspicious, tell you client to contact the lender immediately.
- If suspicious, tell you client to contact you, the agent, immediately.
- Develop a “Wire Fraud/Internet Scanner Warning” disclosure form and give it to your client.
These tips are not “too much” nor “overly cautious, suspicious or reactive.” As long as there is an Internet, know there is and will be wire fraud.
Your clients will appreciate your looking out for their best interests.