Lauren Bunting

Lauren Bunting

(March 24, 2023) The National Association of REALTORs reports that real estate wire fraud continues to be one of the most prevalent cybercrimes in the U.S. About 13,638 people were victims of wire fraud in the real estate and rental sector in 2020, a 17 percent increase over 2019, with losses of more than $213 million, according to FBI Internet Crime Report data. In 2021, that figure has soared to $350,328,166, representing a 64 percent increase over 2020.

Some additional figures from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center are summarized below:

Real Estate and rental wire fraud is ranked No. 7 out of more than 30 types of fraud

2,300-plus Average complaints received daily

552,000-plus Average complaints received per year (last five years)

The highest reported fraud in real estate in 2020 was Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC) Cyber criminals send convincing yet fraudulent wire instructions, usually at the last minute of a transaction. They do this by assuming the identity of the title, real estate agent or closing attorney and forge the person’s email and other details about the transaction. The scammers will then send an email to the unknowing buyer and provide new wire instructions to the criminal’s bank account.

Some of the suggested practices to help avoid becoming a victim of real estate wire fraud are:

Always verify who is requesting the transfer and where it is going.

Since the scammers have hacked email systems to carry out the fraud, place a call to the person or business you are sending the wire transfer before finishing the transfer. You can verify you have the correct business number via your real estate agent or google search of the title company/attorney business.

– Lauren Bunting is the Broker of Record for Keller Williams Realty of Delmarva in Ocean City.

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