Closing Scams involving wire fraud

Wire fraud is happening in central Ohio in both residential and commercial transactions. Columbus REALTORS® is aware of at least nine attempts locally and counting. In one instance, the criminals were successful in the amount of almost $1 million.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued a wire fraud phishing scam alert. The warning is a little bit of a misnomer in that it specifically mentions residential. Make no mistake, it’s happening in commercial as well.

How it’s happening:

  • Criminals are hacking email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals and obtaining transaction information 
  • They then send fraudulent wiring instruction
    • Instructing the buyer to send funds to a fraudulent account OR
    • Instructing the title company to send the sellers proceeds to a fraudulent account 
  • These criminals are being diligent
    • They monitor the entire transaction 
    • They are wording their emails exactly as those (clients, REALTORS®, lender, title reps, etc.) who are involved in the transaction do
    • They are CC'ing those who should be in the know which further makes it look real.
  • Letterhead and office documents are created to look real

What should you do?

  • If a title company, lender or REALTOR® is calling to verify information, even after you've sent legitimate wiring instructions, it's for your safety, they aren't making it difficult to do business.
  • Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
  • Make sure all parties involved in the transaction are aware that no financial information will be emailed, including wiring instructions.
  • If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). 
  • Instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.
  • If you are the victim or know of cyber-crime attempts, please call your local authorities. We would also appreciate knowing of additional instances although we don’t need specifics. We just want to be sure we are educating and informing our members.

What is Columbus REALTORS® doing?

  • Currently alerting members to this scam and advising all real estate professionals to take necessary steps to protect themselves and the consumer
  • Working with the United States Secret Service (USSS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to try to develop a Joint Industry Continuing Education (CE) class (similar to the TRID event last year).

More Info:
Don’t Use E-mail to Manage Transactions
View the FTC scam alert
Protecting your business and your clients from cyberfraud
Online Rental Scams are a major problem (Craigslist type scams)