A Chicago woman, Dalisay Penganiban, had been saving up to buy a dream home for her and her kids. After finding the perfect place, she submitted an offer and opened escrow. The $35,000 she slowly saved, she quickly lost to internet hackers.
Her close of escrow date was quickly approaching. She was instructed to wire the money, except the instruction didn’t come from her closing attorney.
She explained, so many emails were going back and forth with the title company, that this one blended in.
It looked authentic, but it wasn’t.
Scammers are working hard to make their emails look the same. They use the closing agent’s name and an email address with a tiny change (like one letter). Many scammers study previous emails sent to match the writing style.
Panganiban wired off her $35,000. It wasn’t until her closing attorney asked for a check that she realized she had sent her closing funds to the criminal’s account.
“Because I trusted him, and I think this is the process, so this is what I have to do.” Dalisy shared.
Many others have fallen into this same trap and for even more money. Last year, 11,300 individuals were victims of wire transfer fraud, and $149 million was lost.
Cynthia Blair, President of the American Land Title Association (ALTA), calls wire transfer fraud an epidemic. She explains, “Criminals have figured out that title companies are taking in and sending out millions and millions of dollars every day. They’re hacking the emails of everyone involved in the process: attorneys, buyers, sellers, title companies and realtors.”
The American Land Title Association has approached Congress regarding these issues. ALTA is pushing for a new federal law requiring banks to match the name on the account with the account number. They believe it would help make sure everything is legitimate.
We always recommend you double-check with your escrow officer before transferring money.
Pioneer Title Agency is a full service company with an operating philosophy of "Commitment to Service." The company provides title insurance, escrow, account servicing, trustee sales, as well as builder related trust services through more than 70 offices in Arizona.