5 Tips to protect yourself when buying a home or receiving/sending funds
Wiring money is still a popular way to send or receive funds, especially when purchasing real estate. One of the reasons it is preferred is that it can be utilized remotely and immediately. It also offers more protection than using various online money-transfer services. However, wire fraud does still exist in 2020, and it is a crime you need to be aware of whether you're sending or receiving funds. Here are some ways to protect yourself from wire fraud.
1. Use a bank
There are private companies that offer wire transfers as their primary service. These smaller companies do not always have the resources and know-how to fully protect your data. When you work with a bank, you get better security. Banks have entire departments dedicated to cybersecurity, so you don't have to be as worried about scammers accessing your account information.
2. Never wire money to someone you don't know
Wire fraud can occur when someone intercepts your information as you send a legitimate wire transfer, but it can also occur when someone tricks you into sending money directly to a scammer.
If you ever get a request to wire funds to a person or entity you do not recognize, do not make the transfer. It's easy for someone to pose as your nephew, parent, or friend and request money, especially via email, so only wire funds to friends and family members after speaking to them on the phone (via a call you initiated).
3. Be wary of urgent email requests
Say you've been working with a certain real estate seller for a while. One morning, you wake up to an email, seemingly from them, asking you to promptly transfer funds to secure your purchase. The email might give you a specific deadline, like 10:00 am, or the next day.
This is a popular phishing scam. A fraudster is posing as the person you've been doing business with. If you were to send the funds to the number indicated in the email, you'd be putting funds directly in the criminal's pocket! Always discuss and agree to all wire transfers in person.
4. Be wary of last-minute changes
One way that some wire fraud criminals operate is by changing the account numbers at the last minute during a real estate transaction. This happens quite often when purchasing real estate from out-of-state. You're all ready to send the funds, and then the seller contacts you and tells you to send the funds to a different account than they previously indicated. This is a huge red flag for fraud. Do not send the money. Contact the authorities instead.
5. Sign up for account alerts with your bank
Sometimes, in spite of being as wary as possible when completing wire transfers, your information can fall into the wrong hands. If this does occur, the sooner you find out about it, the better. Sign up for account alerts with your bank. Typically, the bank will then alert you via call or text if there is any unusual activity on your account, such as a request for a large transfer or a request for a wire transfer from a foreign country. You will have to approve the transaction before it goes through, which could mean you're able to stop the fraudster altogether.