Real estate transactions often involve the wiring or electronic funds transfer (“EFT”) of money to complete a deal. Wire transfers and EFT’s in real estate transactions have become the targets of criminals who interject themselves into a real estate transaction by posing as a party in the transaction.
In these cases, the criminal often takes on the identity of a title or escrow company or real estate agent in the transaction and provides legitimate-looking instructions directing the buyer where to wire or transfer funds. These false instructions result in the transfer of funds to the criminal’s bank account, often overseas, and the immediate loss of the funds transferred. These are sophisticated, professional- looking attacks on your real estate transactions by criminals that have obtained personal details from communications that appear convincing.
Steps to avoid such criminal activity include:
- Obtain email, phone numbers and account numbers of real estate agents and escrow-holders at the beginning of the real estate transaction, and use the obtained information throughout the transaction.
- Do not act on a change of wiring or EFT instructions that you receive electronically (via e-mail) or via phone call without first calling the real estate agent or escrow officer at the original telephone number to verify new instructions.
- Do not send personal information (bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and financial details) by personal e-mail or text. Take steps to use a secure, encrypted site to provide this information.
If you are victimized, it is critical that you contact your depository institution and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) immediately in order to have a chance at halting the criminal transfer. To do so, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center can be reached via their website at: https://bec.ic3.gov/
Of course, you should immediately contact your attorney to review the transaction to determine if the agent and escrow company acted prudently or if other assets are in jeopardy. Most wire fraud cases are perpetrated by parties living outside of the United States. As such, it is critical that you use an attorney with contacts both inside and outside of the United States to coordinate the immediate freezing of the wire process overseas.
VOGT | RESNICK | SHERAK, LLP
4400 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 900 – Newport Beach, CA 92660
Telephone: 949-851-9001 – Website: www.vrslaw.net