Wire Transfer Fraud in 2021

« TITLE TALK / Wire Transfer Fraud in 2021

“WTF!” we seem to yell it from the rooftops every day. Of course, we’re talking about Wire Transfer Fraud, and we are constantly bringing it up because it is a BIG problem. 

Just how big of a problem? Try $6.9 Billion big. That’s right, in 2021, cyber losses hit $6.9 Billion! 

Last year, the US experienced an unprecedented increase in attacks, according to the latest report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. One fraud complaint happened every 37 seconds in 2021…and that’s just the ones reported. 

While the number of real estate cybercrime victims decreased, losses reached a new high. Over 11,000 individuals fell victim to wire transfer fraud, with losses running up to $350 million. In 2020, those numbers were 13,638 victims with $213 million in losses. 

At Pioneer Title Agency, we have many policies and procedures to help safeguard real estate funds. But all it takes is one email to trick someone into wiring their funds to the wrong place. 

In this market, buyers are moving quickly and submitting competitive (cash-heavy) offers. Which makes for the perfect opportunity for fraudsters to step in. When it comes to your money during the escrow process, it is important to:

  • Breath and slow down – this is your life savings we’re dealing with!
  • Call your escrow officer at a known number (not one found in a phishing email) to verify instructions
  • Understand our wiring instructions WILL NOT change
  • Read emails carefully – searching for typos, urgency, or bizarre requests. 

These fraudsters are targeting all sorts of victims. While those over 40 accounted for 74% of the victims, 20-29-year-olds reported losses 118x more than the previous year. So whether this is your first home or your 100th home – you’re a newbie, seasoned investor, industry professional, or anything in between it’s important to be alert.  

Wire Transfer Fraud is real, and it can happen to you. It is essential to protect yourself by being vigilant, confirming everything, and verifying your wire was received. 

If you have been targeted, time is of the essence to follow these four steps. 

  1. Immediately call your bank and ask them to issue a recall notice for your wire
  2. Report the crime to www.IC3.gov
  3. Call your regional FBI office and local police
  4. Detecting that you sent money to the wrong account within 24 hours is the best chance of recovering it. 

Never hesitate to reach out to your escrow officer if you have questions!