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Avoiding Real Estate Settlement Wire Fraud

Realtors: It’s all over the news here, here, and here. If you haven’t had the nightmare, someone you know has: your client receives an innocuous email and follow-up phone call from someone who claims to be from the Settlement Agent’s office updating their wire instructions. Wanting nothing to postpone the home purchase, your client complies with their wire instructions…only to find out at closing they’ve been scammed out of potentially thousands!

How can your clients avoid this nightmare?

·     Familiarize yourself and your client with the Settlement Agent’s wiring procedures.

·     Be cautious of any new email contacts that claim to be your Settlement Agent. Oftentimes, scammers will use email addresses that are remarkably similar, but are 1 character different. It’s always good practice in real estate to double or even triple check names and client information not just for transaction security, but for consistency across all legal documents.

·     Practice good email hygiene (e.g., do not provide confidential information over unsecure email portals, change your passwords frequently)

·     If there is any question at all, contact your Settlement Agent using a number you have previously used to contact them before complying to any wiring requests. When in doubt, call the involved parties directly. Our law firm’s practice is to always call the client to confirm wiring instructions.

The tip: Wire fraud is becoming more commonplace, but following these tips will reduce your clients’ risk.

Written by Attorney William D. Tucker, III

To schedule your initial consultation, call 434-973-7474 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Charlottesville, Palmyra, Harrisonburg, and Staunton.

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