5 Steps to Avoid Fraud in the Homebuying Process
You have worked so hard to save up your down payment, made a thorough search for the perfect house for your family, and you are finally in escrow. Congratulations! All the pieces are falling into place perfectly.
Unfortunately, clever criminals have discovered that home buyers can be easy prey during the busy escrow process where information and communication are passing frequently between parties of the sale.
You don’t need to be the next victim. Read on to find out how these schemes are packaged, and discover five easy ways you can avoid becoming a victim.
How do I know if I have received a fraudulent email?
Your first step is to arm yourself with knowledge on how to recognize one of these emails:
- These emails usually ask for large sums of money to be wire transferred immediately.
- Because thieves can hack into email accounts, it may look like this email comes directly from your realtor, escrow agent, or attorney.
- Even email signatures can be carefully altered to look like they come straight from one of those individuals or companies but with the contact information changed. Look out for any inconsistencies.
- To add even more confusion to the mix, criminals can time these emails to coincide with the end of your escrow when you might be expecting such a request.
Once the funds are transferred using fraudulent links, the money is potentially unrecoverable.
You won’t be a victim if you take these simple steps.
It may sound daunting to spot a fraudulent email, however, you can avoid fraud during the homebuying process — and in many other situations as well — by following these practical, common-sense guidelines for handling online transactions.
1. Talk to your Title Officer and REALTOR at the beginning of the escrow process.
Understand what the wire transfer process will be like and how it will be handled so that you know what to expect. Who will be requesting the funds? How and when will the transfer take place? What will you need to provide on your end? Knowing what to expect will help you be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t fit the expected timeline.
2. Call the recipient immediately before sending money.
Once you have received wire transfer instructions, it is always good practice to call the recipient right before you are going to make the transfer. Confirm any account and routing numbers and make sure you understand the process.
Another key is to also use a contact phone number that is known to you. Thieves can easily mimic a title officer or REALTOR’s email signature using their own contact information. Make sure you call the number you have on record for your REALTOR, title representative, or attorney.
3. Never send your private financial or personal information by email.
Email is not a secure way to transfer information, so if you put your data (such as social security numbers or account numbers) in an email, it can fall into the wrong hands. The same is true for unverified websites.
You should only share your personal data through an encrypted system that has been verified by the person you intend to receive it. Reputable banks, real estate brokerages, and title companies have these secure systems in place to protect your private information from being hacked.
4. Implement secure online practices everyday.
Using security-minded practices in your everyday life will help you avoid fraud and also help you identify when something doesn’t seem quite right. You should always use strong passwords, especially for your financial accounts, and never connect over unsecured WiFi networks which are easily hacked, putting your personal data at risk.
5. Notify your REALTOR right away if you think you have received a fraudulent email.
If you receive an email or a request for a wire transfer and you are not sure of its source, it is always best to contact your REALTOR directly. They want your process to go as smoothly as possible and want your data — and your money — to remain secure. If a request has been sent fraudulently, you can help yourself and others avoid fraud by letting the REALTOR or title company know as soon as possible.
Now back to buying the home of your dreams!
When you choose to go through your home buying process with Steinborn & Associates, we want you to be sure that your transactions are secure. Our staff of experienced REALTORS look forward to assisting you in the safe process of finding the home you have been dreaming of! Contact us today.