Scammers look for opportunities to trick unsuspecting people into handing over their money. If you’re planning to buy a house, you should be aware of the risk of mortgage wire fraud.

How the Scam Works

Mortgage wire fraud is a complex scheme that’s carried out over a period of time. Someone can use a phishing email to gain access to an email account belonging to a real estate agent or a bank employee who is involved in a home purchase.

A scammer can then go through that individual’s account, identify someone who will soon be closing on a house, contact that person with instructions to wire money to a different account than the one that the homebuyer was previously instructed to send money to, and say the matter is urgent.

An unsuspecting homebuyer who is already nervous and stressed out might comply without realizing that it’s a scam. Once money has been wired to a fraudulent account, it can be difficult or impossible to get it back.

Scammers make their emails and phone calls seem legitimate. They use the names of real people that a homebuyer has worked with before and logos that look the same as the ones that legitimate companies use.

They often use email addresses that are very similar to those of people who are involved in real estate transactions and bet on the idea that a homebuyer won’t notice a slightly different email address. In some cases, scammers use spoofing to make it appear that messages are from email addresses or phone numbers that are identical to real ones.

How to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Wire Fraud

When you begin communicating with a real estate agent, loan officer, and other professionals involved in the homebuying process, record their contact information so you have a list of legitimate email addresses and phone numbers. If you receive a communication shortly before you close on a house and it tells you that there has been a last-minute change, you should immediately be suspicious. Even if the email address or phone number matches one that’s familiar to you, a scammer might be using spoofing to try to deceive you.

If you have any doubts or questions at all, reach out directly to the person that the message appears to be from. Use the original contact information that you collected and that you know is legitimate. Don’t follow any instructions unless you’re absolutely certain that the message is really from the person that it claims to be from.

Before you wire money, contact the company involved using an email address or phone number that you know is valid. Verify the details related to the transaction and make sure everything is as it should be before you send your money. Do this in all cases, just to be on the safe side. After you wire the funds, reach out to the company to verify that it received them.