3 more ways we can all fight cybercriminals

Why do we talk about wire fraud so much? Consider this quote from Diane Tomb, the CEO of ALTA in this recent article from AARP. “It’s an epidemic now. Four years ago, we heard about this kind of thing a couple times a month. Now it’s multiple times a day.”

So, no matter how much we all talk about this scary topic, its frequency and the threat of cybercriminals compromising transactions in general continue to grow. In fact, the FBI labels wire fraud as one of the fastest-growing and most financially damaging internet-enabled crimes today.  

So, what is wire fraud?

Wire fraud typically starts when cybercriminals leverage publicly available information on property owners and real estate transactions. They might impersonate a real estate agent, title agent, or attorney, sending timely and convincing emails or texts about the transaction. You or your clients may inadvertently download malware or surrender login credentials by clicking on a seemingly innocuous link, allowing criminals to hijack a computer or email account.

These bad actors are smart and slick and have upped their game significantly. The damages caused by business email compromise, including real estate wire fraud, have surged from over $676 million in 2017 to over $2.7 billion in 2022. No wonder ALTA called it an “epidemic.” And while the recent piece was from AARP, it’s important to note that wire fraudsters target people of all ages. In fact, first-time homebuyers can be especially vulnerable.

Here are three things all of us can continue to do to advocate for our customers and keep the money involved in our transactions secure.

  • Have financial safety conversations. Make it a point to discuss secure money transfer methods with your buyers and sellers. Assure them that their funds will be handled with care. And be sure to talk about wire fraud. We may have these conversations many times with each other, but this might be the first time our clients are hearing these warnings. 
  • Talk about red flags. Money transfer instructions rarely change at the eleventh hour. Train your clients to treat unexpected changes as possible fraud. Remind your clients to never email sensitive financial info and make it clear that last-minute changes to wiring instructions very rarely happen. 
  • Advocate for 2FA. Since most of these scam attempts start with a hacked email address, securing accounts is particularly important.  Push your clients to add that extra layer of protection. A password and an authentication code make it tougher for the bad guys.

Keep safe, and remember, we’re here to support you every step of the way. That means investing in tools to keep you as secure as possible and always being available to verify even the most innocent of information. Reach out to one of our branches anytime!

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