Property transactions happen nearly every day. With many different properties going up for sale in the Houston area seemingly overnight, it’s no secret that the real estate market isn’t slowing down anytime soon. While the ongoing influx of real estate transactions brings new businesses and residents to Houston, Texas, it also comes with concerns of wire fraud.
While there have been growing concerns about CEO fraud in recent months, wire fraud is now becoming a major issue when for those involved in real estate transactions. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed real estate transactions are becoming a growing target of fraudulent behavior and schemes.
The real estate industry is incredibly fast-paced, with emails regularly sent out containing highly sensitive financial information, with very little to no face-to-face conversations. This makes the industry a major target of wire fraud. These scammers concoct both sophisticated and simple wire fraud schemes undertaken by hacking into and monitoring email exchanges among parties involved in a real estate transaction. The scammers then pose as one of the participants and requests the down payment funds be wired to fraudulent bank accounts. These criminals craft extremely compelling and customized emails in order to dupe unsuspecting victims out of their money.
Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division, James Abbott, has stated, “there are many players involved in these transactions,” and “whether it’s a real estate agent, an escrow company, a real estate lawyer, buyer or seller — there are a lot of potential targets.”
From October 2014 to October 2019, the FBI reported a total of 3,766 victims of real estate scams both across the country and internationally. The associated losses total over $338 million.
How to Protect Against Wire Fraud
With these fraudulent transactions running rampant in the real estate industry, it’s incredibly important to know how to protect yourself from these schemes. In the event someone suspects he or she is a victim of wire fraud, they should take the following steps to protect their accounts and personal information:
Acting quickly is imperative if someone suspects they are a victim of wire fraud. Potential victims should immediately contact their financial institutions to request a recall of their funds and to inform them of their account being compromised.
After discussing the fraudulent behavior with a bank or other financial institution, file a report with law enforcement, including filing an online complaint with the FBI’s Internet crime complaint center.
Use a VPN or Personal Hotspot
Opting to use a virtual private network (VPN), especially when using the Internet in a public space, can help protect your identity. When VPN services are used on a device, they encrypt the traffic from the machine to a secure exit point, keeping both the Internet connection and any emails safe from interception.
One can also connect to a personal hotspot instead of a public network. Users can check the certificate available for each site they visit to determine if it is secure. By clicking the padlock icon to the left of the browser, a list will populate stating whether or not a connection is secure.
Call and Verify
If any suspected wire fraud request comes through email, pick up the phone and call the sender to confirm the details before making any associated payments. By verbally verifying the email did in fact come from an attorney, broker, or another important point of contact, you can avoid a fraudulent transaction before it can even happen.
Houston Fraud Attorneys
Wire fraud is incredibly dangerous and affects the real estate industry regularly. At Feldman & Feldman, we are equipped to investigate any fraudulent claims and pursue compensation. Because Texas has one of the highest incidences of fraud per capita, potential victims must protect themselves with the help of an experienced trial attorney. Contact the attorneys at Feldman & Feldman today.