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The lucrative nature of real estate investments and transactions makes them vulnerable to the risk of fraud, robbery, phishing and cybercrimes. As opposed to bank robberies and burglaries, wire net frauds and cyber robberies don’t have a limit to the amount of money that can be looted. 

Wire fraud in the real estate industry appears to be the fastest growing amongst all cybercrimes prevalent across the US. In 2017, the authorities reported losses more than $1.4 billion while complaints were registered by 301,580 individuals and firms. Moreover, statistics reveal that more than 9,600 investors and renters were looted of $56 million in the real estate industry last year. 

So, how does a real estate fraud actually occur? 

Basically, the fraudsters and crooks conduct fake real estate transactions by adopting the identity of a real estate agent from a reputable firm or someone related to the agent handling the purchase. The fraudsters forge the identity, email and other important details to create a highly authentic and credible image that can be easily trusted by the buyer or organization. After posing as a credible agent, they scam the buyers with fallacious emails and instructions of wire to a bank account, which belongs to the fraudster. 

Earlier in June, the federal authorities have launched a coordinated law enforcement initiative, WireWire, to take down all BEC schemes that attempt to intercept and hijack wire transfers. In a short period of 6 months, this effort has managed to make 74 arrests, and recovered $14 million from fraudulent wire transfers. However, the risk of being a victim is still looming high above the buyer’s head. 

How can you protect yourself? 

Reports from the FBI reveal that business email scams and compromises have accumulated loss of over $12 billion and the numbers keep growing with every passing day. It is a common practice for fraudsters to hack the buyer’s email account and monitor all the correspondence taking between the buyers and real estate agents. 

The scammers wait until the two parties head towards the transaction, and at the very last moment, they contact the buyer with fake emails to make it appear like the agent is using a different account to ask for a money to be wired to another account. Fraudsters can also hack the email accounts of real estate agents and professionals. So basically, not only your money and your investment are at stake, but more importantly, your personal identity and your personal/financial information linked with your email account are also at risk. 

These wire transfers amount up to a great deal of money, and personal identities and information are also valuable for such scammers. It is important for buyers and real estate agents to adopt a more secure way to communicate and conduct business transactions. Most important, email accounts should be password protected. It is also important to make sure you verify all emails that ask you to wire funds or pay any kind of amount. Be sure to verify all the details and sudden changes by contact your real estate firm or agent on a verified number. 

Have any questions or are you ready to start your new home search in 2019?  Give us a call today!  Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

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