Are you buying a new home? Among the many related details you may be considering, add this caution: Criminals may use the transaction to steal from you.
It’s a new twist in the scam known as business email compromise, or masquerading, that I have been blogging about for a few years. It basically involves someone sending you an email asking for money to be sent under false pretenses, and it’s a $5 billion problem. That is $5 billion in actual losses, not just fraudulent transactions. (Check out our infographic for more information.)
Here are some ways to help avoid being a victim of this type of scam during a real estate transaction:
- Do not send funds based on an email. If you get an email with wire instructions, pick up the phone and verify all the details, especially the bank and account numbers.
- Call to verify the receipt of funds. If you were the victim of a scam or a mistake was made, the earlier you detect it (minutes or hours), the better chance you have to recall the funds.
- Be careful clicking on links. Real estate transactions involve a lot of paperwork, and much of that paperwork is delivered online. Instead of clicking the links, go directly to the site. See this blog post for more information.
- Protect your email. Turn on 2-factor authentication for email to keep the criminals out.
- Check the email address. In some cases, criminals will set up an email address very close to the real recipient. When you reply, replace the email from the sender with the known email address from your address book or a business card.
Just in case you think this may be an isolated trend rather than a serious threat, consider this: The FBI has stated that on average $5.4 million is stolen every month in real estate-related scams in the Los Angeles area.
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