In case you haven’t been told already, our industry has a particular technological plague that you need to know about if you’re buying a home or planning to:  wire fraud.  It’s easy enough to avoid, but this is important.  Here’s how it goes:

You spend weeks or months shopping and find a home you love, successfully get it under contract, pay for inspections and an appraisal and maybe a new survey.  You do everything your mortgage lender asks you to do along the way, pack and make all your preparations for you move.  You even schedule utilities to be changed to your name.  You’re excited!

Three days before closing you receive the Closing Disclosure that details your closing costs and the total amount you’ll need at closing.  Everything is still okay at that point.  No surprises, and you have the cash ready to go ....

When you get another email from the title company asking you to wire funds for your down payment and closing costs you recognize the name on the email that you’ve been corresponding with for weeks, so the day before closing you go to your bank, initiate the wire, and go back to work or to cleaning the home you’re leaving.

Later that day, or maybe the next morning at the title company, you learn that your wire didn’t arrive.  The money you saved and must have to complete your purchase is gone.

Nightmare?  Absolutely.  What happened is that a third party hacked the title company’s email, obtained your name and email address along with the logo and email template needed to make that last message look completely legitimate.  But … that message included wiring instructions that have nothing to do with the title company.  Your money really is gone, probably scattered beyond identification, and irretrievable.

One easy step would have avoided this so you could be moving into your new home the next day.  Before you wire any money, call someone you know at the title company at a number you know and trust and ask them to read you their wiring instructions.  Use those instructions, not the ones you received via email.

That precaution is worthwhile anytime you plan to wire money to anyone, but for most people the purchase of a home is the largest financial transaction they’ve ever been involved with, and this wire is for a really significant amount.  This scam has been going on for a few years now but if you haven’t bought a home recently you may not know.  Don’t let your dream of home ownership get away for want of a single phone call.