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Protect yourself from Wire Fraud

The past few years have seen a large increase in wire fraud, with much of it occurring in the context of real estate transactions. For most people, buying a home will be one of the few times they will be using wire transfers for large sums of money, so being vigilant about wire fraud during real estate transactions is extremely important.

Wire transfers are fast and convenient digital money transactions between two bank accounts. The sender of the funds will need the recipients name, account number and recipients American Banking Association routing number.

Fraudsters will use various methods to gain access to someone’s personal computer or unsecured e-mail accounts. From there, they will review information found on that computer or those accounts to capture details of any upcoming real estate transactions, including names of escrow agents, lenders and others and then try to impersonate those parties in emails. Sometimes a fraudster will start using impersonating emails early on in the transaction, not just at closing time. The ultimate goal is usually to email the consumer fraudulent wire transfer instructions.

Here are several ways to protect yourself from wire fraud:

-Never give your bank account and credit card information or Social Security Number to advertisers, unsolicited callers or to anyone via a text message or e-mail. This information could be used to wire transfer money out of your account.

-Never wire money to anyone you don’t know or have not met in person, or anyone who says they are with the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or a major company.

-Know what to expect for the closing process from your lender and title company. Do not comply with any last-minute change or request that claims you must make a wire transfer to avoid losing the property.

-Confirm your wire transfers by phone using a known number before transferring funds. Use a phone number from a website or business card rather than a phone number found in the email that is sending you the wire transfer instructions.

-Verify the transfer as soon as possible. The sooner you can detect that the money was sent to the wrong account, the better. The first 4-6 hours after the transfer are critical if fraud is detected and efforts are made to reclaim the funds. If you think you have been a victim of wire fraud, contact your bank immediately and ask if the bank can stop the transfer or recover your funds.

-When responding to a suspicious e-mail, hit “Forward” not “Reply” and then type the sender’s e-mail address. Fraudsters use fake e-mail addresses that are similar to real ones for a company. By typing in the e-mail address, you will make it easier to discover if the fraudster is after you.

-Be on the alert for common scams, such as work from home, deals on product sales and news that you have won the lottery or other prizes.

-Review your bank statements regularly and report any irregularities to your bank as soon as possible.

-If you think you may have wired money to a scammer, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at or call 877-FTC-HELP. You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at, or contact the U.S. Secret Service field office Cyber Fraud Task Force to report the suspected fraud. You can also send a complaint to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at

If you have questions about wire fraud or for any real estate needs, contact Wendy Barrick at or 330-563-4184

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