Be Wary of Wire Fraud

August 6, 2021

- By Catherine Taylor

Wire fraud has been a disruptor in real estate transactions for several years, and with an increasing number of transactions occurring largely in cyberspace, REALTORS® should be taking steps to protect their offices and clients from becoming victims of wire fraud. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® continues to hear new reports of wire fraud. REALTORS® should counsel their clients of the risks of wire fraud and advise them to: 

  • Never wire funds without independently verifying all information; 
  • Verify contact information shared within an email is legitimate – do not call the phone number contained within the email; 
  • Only send personal information (SSN, account numbers, etc.) through a securely encrypted email or personal delivery to the intended recipient;  
  • Be cautious of any links contained in emails, and 
  • Use strong passwords and secure WIFI.  

Scammers are incredibly clever, making detection of fraud increasingly difficult. Wire fraud often occurs through an email hack where the email used is extremely close to the email address they are impersonating, sometimes only changing one letter or number, or switching the sender from Gmail to Yahoo. Scammers may even include details to increase the credibility of their email, such as a company logo.  

Office policies regarding wire fraud can significantly mitigate the risk of falling prey to a wire fraud scheme. Develop company policies that require agents to use the MAR Wire Fraud Advisory (Form 519) in their client onboarding process and to only use secure email servers for client communications. 

If clients believe they have received suspicious wiring instructions, they should immediately contact the bank, the escrow agent, and law enforcement.