BEWARE of W. F. “Spoof” Phisher. He lives in Armenia, Kazakhstan or some other similar foreign place, lying out at the beach enjoying the good life. “Spoof” is a real expert on the Dark-Internet. He may have placed a bug or Trojan on the computer you use or on the computer of someone you are dealing with in a real estate transaction. He waits and follows the un-secure and un-encrypted mails that are passed between you, and any one of the following: your real estate agent, lender, or title company. He gets all the information he needs from unsecured emails such as the date of closing, address of the property, your name, the seller’s name, your lender, the sales price, the loan amount and more. Then “Spoof” will send you an email that seems to come from one of those trusted service providers you are emailing and texting all the information regarding your transaction. In that email he will suggest to you that the wire instructions have changed, and the new instructions he is now providing to you have been approved already by the title company, so no need to call them, “Oh and hurry with that wire”. If you rely on those instructions, your money will be out of the country in a matter of minutes, to be lost to you forever. You won’t even know there is problem until you go to the closing and the title agent says, “Look it appears you didn’t wire the funds, so let me have your certified check.” You look at your real agent and say, “What the…, I sent the funds to the bank per the wire instructions you sent me yesterday morning.” At that point your money is gone, gone, gone.
It used to be that we all received emails from the Queen of Azkaban, with atrocious grammar, and we all knew that email was a scam. Today the bad guys are getting their act together and are now using title industry lingo with proper grammar with enough information about the transaction that even those of us in the title industry have to double check. Before sending funds by wire, you should verify the instructions by calling the originator of the email using a previously known phone number, do not use the phone or email provided in the email creating the change.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Wire Fraud?
If you are not comfortable with sending or receiving your funds by wire, then DON’T, and use certified checks and express mail delivery.
Use encrypted email applications, most title companies and lenders are sending information this way.
From the start of the transaction ensure that you obtain a legitimate phone number and email from the real estate agent, lender, and title company. These are the only phone numbers and emails you should contact during the transaction. DO NOT use any phone number displayed in an email as it may be fraudulent.
If you must wire funds, you should know that wire instructions will ONLY come from your title company after being requested by you, YOU WILL NEVER RECEIVE WIRE INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE LENDER OR THE REAL ESTATE AGENT…. NEVER.
You should always verify wire instructions with the title company by calling the trusted number.
The title company before it wires any funds will contact your bank and confirm all information you provided if the title company is transferring the seller’s funds or payoffs.
Be suspicious of any form of contact that is not from a verified/trusted email or phone number, and look carefully at the email address of the sender, often it is a letter or number different.
Look for buzzwords such as RUSH or IMMEDIATELY, as title companies will never ask for wire transfers in such a manner.