Spring brings the homebuying season, a time when home sales surge and title professionals work tirelessly to ensure clear property titles. However, along with this excitement comes an increased risk of wire fraud. It’s crucial for industry professionals to educate homebuyers about this threat and how to protect themselves.
First-time homebuyers, who make up around one in four buyers today, are particularly vulnerable to scams due to their limited experience in the process. But even experienced buyers are not immune. Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated, employing tactics like phishing to trick buyers into revealing personal information or clicking on malicious links. Once they gain access to email accounts, hackers monitor messages and send fraudulent wire transfer instructions disguised as trusted professionals.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), reported losses from business email compromise (BEC) and real estate wire fraud have skyrocketed from $676 million in 2017 to $2.7 billion in 2022. The number of victims is likely higher, as not all cases are reported. It’s essential to report fraud to the FBI at www.ic3.gov.
As responsible professionals, it’s our duty to raise awareness and equip buyers with the necessary tools. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) and its members have prioritized increasing awareness and educating consumers about wire fraud. Title companies are implementing consumer warnings on their websites, communicating the risks to clients and agents, and sharing educational resources.
ALTA conducts webinars and educational sessions, and their consumer education website, homeclosing101.org, offers instructional videos and infographics to help buyers protect themselves. ALTA collaborates with industry partners, federal agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and law enforcement to address the issue.