WIRING FUNDS? – BEWARE OF WIRE FRAUD SCHEMES
The use of wired funds for real estate closings is extremely common. Wired funds are immediately available, with no concerns regarding checks being forged, not clearing or being dishonored by the originating bank. Unfortunately, there has been a recent surge in wire fraud schemes, many of which involve funds being sent for real estate closings. Wire fraud victims include sophisticated law firms and consumers. Recent victims of wire fraud involving real estate closings include a New York judge who lost over a million dollars and a Colorado family who lost their entire savings.
The typical wire fraud involves hackers scanning emails looking for indications of a closing occurring, and then attempting to contact the individual pretending to be a legitimate party to the transaction. The hacker then substitutes his wiring information for the legitimate wiring information and then rapidly moves the money out of the country.
However, there are some common sense precautions that consumers and businesses alike can take to significantly reduce the risk of being victimized by wire fraud:
- Verify all wiring information with a phone call to a known independently verified number for the entity you are wiring to.
- Be especially wary if wiring instructions are changed, even what may look like a slight change, especially when received by email or at the last minute. Re-verify by calling a known independently verified number for the entity as stated above.
- Alert the receiving entity (your attorney for instance) when you send the funds so they can watch for it, and then confirm that they have received the wire. It may be possible if a wire is misdirected to retrieve it if you find out soon enough, but after 24 hours the odds of getting the stolen money back decrease greatly.
- Be careful with email addresses. Hackers will often substitute a similar email address, maybe with a slightly different spelling or different domain name, for a legitimate address. It is suggested that instead of replying, you use the forward feature, and type a known good email address for your recipient, to avoid the email being misdirected.
Here at Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, LLC we have taken a number of precautions against wire fraud. We use encrypted email attachments for all sensitive information, including the transmittal of wiring information, and we maintain the latest email and internet security protocols to protect against email fraud. We also instruct our clients that our wire instructions seldom change and if they are advised of a purported change or if they have any concerns to contact us directly by phone.
Wire fraud is a costly and growing internet crime. Be careful and do not become a victim!