After going through all the steps to buy a home, putting in your down payment should feel like a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, this is no time to let your guard down. Fraudsters can target unsuspecting home buyers during their escrow transaction: It is important throughout the home-buying process to keep a watchful eye out and protect yourself from falling victim to wire fraud. The title industry has a real challenge protecting consumers against becoming a victim, not just locally but also nationwide.
“Fraudsters will go to great lengths to trick prospective home buyers into sending funds through a wire transfer,” says Tom Davis, vice president of Pioneer Title Agency, a locally owned and operated title agency that provides title insurance, escrow, account servicing, trustee sales, as well as builder-related trust services. “These wire transfers appear in the form of a legitimate-looking email, which includes personal information like your closing date, address and detail about your realtor or escrow officer.”
It can take mere seconds to fall victim to wire fraud and put your home purchase on pause, and even worse if the wire fraud is not caught in time and your funds end up offshore. At that point, there is little hope of recovering those funds and they are usually lost forever.
“The best way to avoid wire fraud is to stay alert in the home buying process,” says Davis. “It’s understandable that many people can get caught up in the stress and excitement of buying a new home and may not even realize that a wire transfer email is fake. Our company has a policy that we must verify all wire instructions verbally before sending or receiving a wire. We make it a priority to tell the buyer in person as well as in writing that we never change our wire instructions.”
Davis recommends being suspicious of any strange emails you get, always confirming emails with your realtor and escrow officer, and acting immediately if you suspect you have received a fraudulent email by contacting your title company and your bank’s fraud department directly, at a trusted number you know is safe.
Get to know your escrow officer personally during the transaction and don’t be shy about calling them directly if you have any concerns: they are here to protect you during the transaction and bring it to a successful close. By working together, the buyer and title company can dramatically reduce the chance of you becoming a victim of wire fraud.
To learn more about Pioneer Title, visit www.pioneertitleagency.com or call a trusted number on the website.