As the spring homebuying season begins to heat up, the real estate and title insurance industries are reminding home buyers about wire fraud scams increasingly targeting them to steal their down payment funds.
The National Association of REALTORS® has issued warnings to its members that hackers are trying to gain access to insecure email accounts and search inboxes for messages related to real estate transactions. The hackers then draft fake emails to buyers that appear to come from their real estate agent, title representative, or attorney, with instructions to wire down payment money to a fraudulent account. If the consumer sends the money, it usually becomes untraceable within minutes.
The American Land Title Association urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a letter last week to step up efforts to warn consumers about the growing threat of real estate wire fraud schemes. “Despite efforts by the title industry industry and others to educate consumers about the risk, home buyers continue to be targeted,” says ALTA CEO Michelle Korsmo. “With the spring homebuying season underway, it’s vital to continue raising awareness about these schemes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should take this opportunity to protect consumers from criminals looking to steal their money.”
ALTA says a CFPB alert should provide tips on how consumers can better protect themselves and provide questions they should ask real estate professionals about procedures to protect their settlement money.
—Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine