Wire Fraud on the Rise: Protect your Portland real estate deal.

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Homebuyer Aaron C. didn’t see anything strange in the email he received from his title company. As instructed, he wired them the $123,000 to complete the purchase of a Portland-area home for him and his family.

The email turned out to be a plant from a hacker who had gained access to his email account. Instead of going to his title company, the money he wired went to a Chase bank account in Florida, where it was transferred away by the fraudsters before anyone caught on, according to the story reported by KGW News.

Unfortunately, this type of scam is booming for real estate transactions across the country. In another prominent case in Oregon last year, homebuyers lost $379,000 to scammers through one wire transfer. Those funds were partially recovered, but only after a long delay and media investigation. Recovery of funds in this type of scam is not common. 

Unfortunately, the scam itself is becoming more and more common. According to the FBI, wire fraud scams diverted nearly $1 billion from real estate transactions during 2017, up from just $19 million in 2016. Between 2015 and 2017, they saw a 1100% increase in this type of scam, with losses going up almost 2200%.

Even saavy email users can easily be tricked by hackers, who impersonate real estate agents or title company officials to convince home buyers to wire money at the time when they are most vulnerable — when they just want to complete the purchase and get into their dream home. Scammers are much smoother than they have been in the past — the fraudulent email you receive may have all the hallmarks of being the real thing. 

Here’s how to avoid being the next victim of a real estate wire fraud scam in Portland:

  • Use an experienced real estate agent. They should be experts on the steps and best practices for conducting your real estate transaction. Find out what they do to avoid fraud.
  • Talk to your real estate agent (and title company, etc.). If an email seems suspicious, call and ask for verification, using a number you previously obtained for that party (not one sent in the email). 
  • Be wary of unexpected phone callers asking for personal information. If you receive a call like this, even if someone is claiming to be from your lender, real estate agent’s office or title company, tell them you’ll call them back. Then use the number you have on file for that party.
  • Don’t underestimate hackers. Even if your title company is using encrypted email, call and verify when asked to transfer significant amounts of money.

If you suspect a scammer is trying to target you, don’t open any email links or respond to any messages. Instead, report the activity to your local police department. To report fraud, identity theft or financial scams, visit the FTC’s complaint website.

Are you working with a real estate agent you trust? Our Top 1% Portland Buyers Agents have completed hundreds of successful transactions. When it comes to the most important purchase of a lifetime, don’t make any compromises — work with the best.

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