Current Wire Fraud Schemes and Ways to Protect Your Business


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Real estate wire fraud is on the rise. According to CertifID, reports of wire fraud increased by 145% in 2022. While consumer real estate payments the most frequent target, commercial transactions pose a greater monetary risk due to the traditional size of those transactions. Real estate wire fraud occurs when criminals target individuals or companies facilitating wire transfers from real estate transactions. Understanding how to identify and prevent these schemes is crucial, as real estate transactions by nature involve large sums of money and the loss of these funds can be devastating for the victims, whether businesses or individuals.

 As First American Title National Commercial Services (“NCS”) drives forward a new era of digitized commercial real estate transactions, we’re committed to pursuing the highest level of fraud security for our customers. The FBI frequently provides training to real estate companies and other financial institutions on current financial crime trends. On November 15, First American Title NCS partnered with FBI Special Agent Keith Givens to host a national webinar to broaden the awareness of our customers and our employees on how to recognize and combat wire fraud.

 “The Fight to Stop Wire Fraud: Current Fraud Schemes and Ways to Protect Your Business” highlighted two of the latest internet-enabled crimes fraudsters are using to target CRE transactions. According to a 2022 Congressional Report, business email compromise, or BEC, is one of the fastest-growing and most financially damaging digital crimes. Through deception and social engineering, BEC scams trick victims into sending money (usually via wire transfer) to criminal actors’ bank accounts. These schemes don’t discriminate – they target a wide range of victims, including companies, charities, schools, the elderly, and real estate purchasers.

Oftentimes, BEC schemes will send their victims false wire instructions from a “spoof” or nearly identical version of a familiar email address to pose as someone that the victim knows or trusts. The goal of the scheme is to redirect legitimate payments to the fraudsters’ bank account. While the email spoof approach is common, BEC schemes can take many forms and are constantly evolving as criminals advance their methods. To put the scale of these schemes in perspective, in 2021, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that the total claimed losses of BEC-related complaints exceeded $2.4 billion.

Real estate wire fraud, or REWF, is a sub-category of BEC in which criminals infiltrate real estate transactions where individuals or companies are transferring funds, very often in large amounts. By compromising the victim’s email or other communications, criminals will insert themselves into a transaction and wait until parties start to exchange funds. The fraudsters will often send a wire instruction to one of the parties impersonating the title or real estate company, among others, to redirect the money to accounts under their control.

First American Title is constantly on the lookout for instances of REWF and is focused on prevention measures to protect our customers and their transactions from fraud. That includes helping our customers to do the same. To that end, First American is highlighting seven best practices identified by the FBI to detect and halt potential instances of wire fraud before they happen.

  1. Whenever possible, use two-factor authentication to validate requests for changes in account information or logins from new devices.
  2. Check to make sure the URL in emails is associated with the business or individual it claims to be from. Screen carefully for any typos or inconsistencies.
  3. Look out for hyperlinks that may contain misspellings of the actual website name.
  4. Don’t give out any of your login credentials or personal identifying information (PII) over email. Note that emails asking for information like this often look legitimate.
  5. When you receive an email related to a sensitive transaction, make sure the sender’s address matches who the email is supposed to be coming from. This is especially important when using a cell phone or other mobile device.
  6. For IT specialists, make sure employees’ computer settings are adjusted to allow full email extensions to be viewed.
  7. Regularly scan your bank, credit card, and other financial accounts to catch any irregularities, such as missing deposits or fraudulent charges.

In addition to our team’s focus on fraud prevention, we provide a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge platform, ClarityFirst®, to secure your commercial real estate transaction during the settlement process. ClarityFirst increases the security of your transaction by providing advance wire verification technology, multifactor authentication, account access management, document sharing, and so much more – available 24/7 from your desktop or mobile device.

 As fraudsters become increasingly sophisticated and seek to take advantage of vulnerabilities that could impact customers’ financial well-being, First American Title is dedicated to ensuring steps for an efficient and secure transactions. Thank you to the FBI and Special Agent Keith Givens for taking the time to educate our industry, customers, and employees on the ever-evolving commercial real estate wire fraud threats and how to best combat them.




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