There was a 166% increase in the amount of money lost due to real estate wire fraud between 2017 and 2018, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. In addition, financial losses due to Internet-enabled theft, fraud and corruption in the United States totaled $149 million.
With that in mind, I recently talked with Chuck Nowicki, president of the Pennsylvania Land Title Association. Nowicki has more than 40 years of experience in the title industry and is currently an associate in a title agency and runs a real estate settlement company.
Nowicki noted that education is key to protecting clients during the real estate transaction. His top suggestions for Realtors® include:
- Invest in an encrypted email service. Free email services can make you and your clients vulnerable and you could be held liable for the breach.
- Communicate with clients before a transaction happens about the dangers of emailed wiring information.
- Remind clients to communicate directly with the title company and make sure they have the correct contact information. They should verify all information and NEVER use information provided in an email, especially wire transfer information, unless they’ve verbally verified it with the company.
For more information, watch my interview with Nowicki. For a detailed list of safeguards, visit the Pennsylvania Land Title Association’s website. In addition, NAR has created the Data Security and Privacy Toolkit as a resource for Realtors®.
If you or a client have been affected by wire fraud, you should file a complaint with the FBI’s IC3.