What’s Up With all the Wire Fraud?
Fifty years ago, when my parents bought their ranch in Applewood, they paid for their down payment with a personal check. Fast forward thirty years, and my husband and I bought our first home by securing a cashier’s check from our bank for the closing. Just 4 years ago, when we purchased our (hopefully!) last home, it was suggested we use a wire for our closing funds because cashier checks were being forged regularly, and there was going to be a 14 day waiting period before the money was available and our builder wasn’t too keen on getting their proceeds that far out from closing. No problem! We went to the title company’s website, jotted down the wiring information and set up the wire with our financial institution. Bada bing, bada boom, piece of cake! Now, however, even our wiring system has fallen prey to the nefarious internet hackers looking to make a quick, (and costly,) buck at your expense.
Just a few short years ago, title companies had to stop posting their wiring instructions on their website for clients to pull because hackers figured out how to manipulate the website’s code so the information displayed with the wiring instructions was changed to their account info, but the title company couldn’t see it on their backend. When you wrote down the bank info, account number, etc., you were writing down information to send your money directly to these criminals. Then the title companies started sending the wiring information to you through personal emails. Hackers found a way to screen incoming emails for key words that might indicate wiring instructions were attached, including not just the word wire, but expanding the search to include words like, ‘account, closing, funds, address’ etc. They would intercept the email, change the wiring info, and send the email on to you. Hard to believe, but true. Too bad they aren’t putting that much energy into doing something productive! Next up, secure, locked emails were initiated asking buyers to make a personal account so they could receive the wiring instructions safely. You can probably imagine where this is going…yep. System hacked. So. Here we are in 2018, and you are wanting to buy a house, which, as we are all well aware, usually costs a good chunk of money. Aside from hiring an armed guard to escort you to closing and handing the title company bundles of cash, (which they would then probably need to double check for counterfeiting anyway,) what are your options? It’s actually pretty simple, really. Call them.
Did you know that 76% of fraud attempts involve wire transfers?
In an age where few of us use our phones for their original intended purpose, to talk to people, this may seem like a strange and archaic solution. ‘All this technology at our fingertips, and you want me to call the title company?’ Yep. Currently, the most failsafe way for you to get accurate, reliable wiring instructions is to look up the number for your title company and call them. Tell them your name and address of the property you are purchasing, and they will give you all the information you need, over the phone, by voice, to initiate your wire to purchase your home. Yes, it takes more time and concentration than opening an email, but considering what’s at risk, I think it’s worth it. As David Wong said, “New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.” Unfortunately, as many of us are becoming brutally aware, many people are choosing to use technology evilly, for their benefit and our detriment. So safeguard yourself, and anytime you are needing to wire money, especially large sums, to anyone, pick up the phone, and call. Or go and visit in person? Nah. It ’s not 1875 anymore.