Imagine going to the settlement process for your home, only to find out that the money sent for the purchase was wired to scammers instead of the title company/closing agent. Next, imagine finding out that you were the one who sent the money to them.

Wire transfer scams have recently been connected to real estate transactions at the time of closing. Fraudsters focus on these transactions since real estate loans require large transfers of money and wire transfers are a common method of sending money to the closing agent/title company.

By hacking into your email or into a title company/closing agent’s email account and searching for upcoming loan closings, scammers have been able to send fraudulent emails to members containing “updated wire instructions”, just prior to the real estate closing. The “updated wire instructions” are fake and, if followed by the member, the member may be liable for the loss of funds.

Common traits:

  • Scammers send fraudulent emails that look legitimate, with false “updated wire instructions” for the mortgage loan closing.
  • Unsuspecting members initiate a wire transfer request following the false wire instructions; money is wired to scammers instead of the title company/closing agent.
  • The scam is typically uncovered at closing time, when the closing agent informs the member and/or credit union that they never received the wire.

Recommendations:

  • Never trust bank account details and payment instructions sent via email.
  • Never wire money based on payment instructions sent via email; you simply do not know who has sent the email.
  • Always confirm payment instructions by contacting the closing agent/title company using a verified phone number. Do not rely on the contact information provided in email, it too may be fake.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails or websites. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.

If you receive an email and are unsure or in doubt about its validity, please contact your lender or closing agent/title company directly to confirm the details.