Alerting Home Buyers: Watch out for wire fraud scam with escrow funds

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fraud alert

This is an important notice about wire fraud. It used to be that buyers would bring in a cashier’s check made out to the escrow company handling the sale, in the amount the needed to close on the purchase of their new home. Now, it is commonplace for buyers to wire the money needed for the purchase of their house to the escrow company’s account.

Here is where it gets tricky: Hackers will monitor real estate agents’ and escrow officers’ emails and not let on that they have access.

Then, when its time for the money to be wired to the escrow company, the hacker will pose as the escrow company via a very official-looking email, or as the real estate agent, copying a signature line or pretending to be an associate, and have the buyer wire their funds to the hacker’s account. Sometimes they’ll also add something about “don’t call me, as I’ll be in a meeting”, or something similar. The minute the wiring to the hackers occurs, the money is GONE.

CNBC just covered this scam last week.

The way to prevent this from occurring is to never wire money without contacting your real estate agent or contacting the escrow company. And DO NOT call the number on the email. Do a Google search for the escrow company and speak with your escrow office to confirm that the request for wiring is valid and to the right account number. Or, call your real estate agent who should be reachable at the number you’ve always used for them, and find out if they sent the request or can provide you with the name and number of the escrow office.

You can also do a TEST wire, sending just a little amount, then confirm with the REAL escrow company that they have received it.

Unfortunately, this “big city” scam has occurred right here in the Tri-Cities, so please be careful.

For more about this scam and tips to make sure you don’t lose your hard-earned money to scammers/hackers, please watch this recent video from Washington REALTORS® Legal Hotline Lawyer Annie Fitzsimmons.

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About The Author
Cari McGee

My husband and I came to the Tri-Cities in 1994, and we thought it would be a temporary stop on our way to larger cities. He was a television sports anchor at the time, and we planned to go wherever the "next step up" took us. Twenty-plus years later, we're still here and we've loved every minute of it! We have two children now, and we've found the Tri-Cities area is a wonderful place to raise a family. It's a great place to do outdoorsy things -- I like to hike Badger Mountain or run along the river path. I also love reading ... by a cozy fire in the winter or a beautiful picture window in the summer (with the A/C on!). I've been a licensed Realtor since 2004. I earned my managing broker's license in 2016, which means I can run my own brokerage, or create a team of real estate agents and supervise them, which is exactly what I did when I formed the Cari McGee Real Estate Team in 2018! We have administrative and marketing personnel, as well as additional agents to serve you. I became a director of the Tri-Cities Association of Realtors Board of Directors in 2016, became Secretary/Treasurer of the organization, and was elected to Vice President in 2019. Want to talk about real estate? Click here to schedule a meeting with me!

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