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Real estate wire scam

Buying or refinancing a home? Be on the lookout for phishing emails with fraudulent wiring instructions for closing costs.

How the scam works

These scams target customers in the process of closing on a home purchase or refinance. Scammers are often successful because they gain access to legitimate email accounts in order to impersonate realtors, escrow officers, attorneys, or lenders.

With the closing details, scammers can craft an email that looks very authentic, down to the email address, signature and company logo. This phishing email provides false wiring instructions, directing the money to be transferred to a different account that is controlled by the scammer.

These emails often include an urgent request to send the money immediately or the deal will fall through or the closing date will be postponed. The email may even appear to carbon copy (CC) others involved in the transaction; however, at closer inspection, those email addresses are altered.

How to help protect yourself

  • Don’t be rushed: Know what to expect as part of the closing process. Although closing dates may change, there is typically not a last-minute requirement that you send the money to avoid a change in date or risk losing the property.
  • Confirm the intended recipient: Be highly suspicious of any communication stating your wiring instructions have changed. Before wiring funds, confirm instructions with your mortgage consultant or title representative by calling a phone number you trust. Do not call a new number or respond to an email with new instructions.

How to take action if this happens to you

  • If you wired money through your bank, request a wire recall immediately. Because wire transfers are typically irreversible, you may not be able to get your money back.
  • If you used a money transfer service, call the company’s complaint line right away.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as soon as possible and provide all of the incident details. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to the FBI.
Learn more about how to spot common scams and cyber threats.