You’ve gone through the journey of finding the perfect home, signed all the closing documents, and you can’t wait to get your hands on the keys to your new home! You receive an email from what appears to be your loan officer providing instructions for a wire transfer. Immediately, you hit the button to send off the cash for closing but, your loan officer has no inkling of any transfer occurring. Like many Americans, you may have just been phished.
Phishing is when cyber scammers utilize fraudulent emails, texts and websites to acquire valuable personal information from you that can ultimately result in taking your money. Releasing information such as your Social Security number, account numbers, login IDs and passwords can all cause you to be the victim of a phishing scam.
According to an article on MBA Newslink, “FBI estimates criminal threat actors diverted an estimated $19 million in fiscal year 2016 from real estate purchase transactions by manipulating email communications of key participants to re-direct legitimate wire transfers, including down payments, earnest money and settlement proceeds to criminally controlled accounts.”
How You Can Avoid Getting Phished:
- Speak to your loan officer about the closing process.
Finding out the closing protocol of your loan process will eliminate any confusion when it comes to phishing emails. Eagle Home Mortgage will not provide wire instructions or request that you send a wire transfer directly to them.
- Do not release your financial information through email.
Anyone’s email account can be hacked. Even if the name looks familiar to you, it doesn’t mean that the message is coming from that person. If the email is requesting financial information or seems suspicious, reach out to that person directly by phone to see if they actually sent the email.
- Be careful with opening any attachments and links within emails.
Attachments and links can contain malware and opening the wrong link will weaken your computer’s security. Links can also show up as phone numbers to lure you into clicking on them.
- Talk to your bank about red flags on wire-instructions.
Red flags may include potential discrepancies between the account name and the name of the intended beneficiary (i.e., your title company or escrow attorney). Your bank may also be able to identify fraudulent account numbers by comparing them to past complaints on fraudulent accounts.
What to Do if You Get Phished:
- Confirm with your title company or escrow attorney.
Call and request a transaction receipt to confirm that the transaction was authentic.
- Contact your bank to cancel a wire transfer.
Upon discovering that your money went to the wrong account, call your bank immediately to open a request for recalling the wire.
- File a complaint with your local FBI and state Attorney General Office.
They can further investigate the situation to find the cyber-scammer behind the crime.
- Report the phishing scam to the FTC.
The FTC may be able to work with you on getting the situation resolved and possibly returning the money lost to you.
By Hannah Nguyen