Mortgage wire fraud occurs when a criminal impersonates a real estate closing firm, a lender, or a real estate agent and provides false wiring instructions to a borrower. The goal of this fraud is to have the funds wired directly to the criminal instead of to the closing firm.
Borrowers are often contacted close to their closing date with updated or corrected wiring instructions. These can be provided via email or verbally. This is a sophisticated type of fraud, and some wire fraud criminals are very good at impersonating others.
Borrowers should take the following precautions to prevent wire fraud.
Identify Two Trusted Contacts at Closing Firm
Early in the home buying or refinancing process, identify two contacts at the closing firm that can securely confirm wiring instructions in case of a scam attempt. Write down or save contact information for these individuals, including their names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Only use this contact information to confirm wiring instructions.
Review Closing Procedures with the Closing Firm
In advance of closing, discuss by phone the closing process with one of your trusted contacts from the closing firm. This conversation should include how you will obtain wiring instructions. Be cautious about discussing the closing process and wiring instructions via email.
Save Contact Information for Other Involved Parties
Make sure you also have contact information for everyone else involved in your closing transaction, including your real estate agent and your lender. As with the closing contacts, make sure you have names, phone numbers, and email addresses. If you receive suspicious emails or phone calls, you should compare the source with the contact information you have saved.
Confirm Wiring Instructions with a Phone Call
Do not wire your funds using instructions received via email without confirming the accuracy of the instructions with one of your trusted contacts at the closing firm. Be sure to contact them using the phone number you wrote down or saved for them. Do not use phone numbers listed in the email and do not reply to the email.
Be Suspicious of Incoming Calls
If someone contacts you and asks for personal financial information over the phone, do not provide any information without verifying their identity. Ask for a name, title, and phone number that you can use to reach them. When in doubt, disconnect and call someone from your contact list.
Be Cautious of Last-Minute Changes
Most wire fraud schemes involve someone contacting the borrower at the last minute to provide updated wiring instructions. Be very cautious with any emails or phone calls with changes to wiring instructions. Do not accept these changes without first calling one of your trusted contacts at the closing firm to confirm the wiring instructions.
Verify Delivery of Wire to Closing Firm
As soon as you receive confirmation that the wire was sent, confirm with the closing firm that they received the funds.
For more tips on how to prepare for a smooth and safe closing, check out the CFPB’s Mortgage Closing Checklist.