In this age of technology, predators are getting more savvy, it is easy to get sucked in by links in emails, becoming a victim, giving a thief access to your funds, bank accounts and personal information. At a team meeting, the Compass Commercial Real Estate Services brokers and property managers received education from Charlie Cookson, Underwriter for Western Title & Escrow in Bend, Oregon on wire fraud and how easy it can be to fall for these email traps. Anyone buying or selling commercial real estate could be a target for wire fraud, but there are steps to take to avoid and minimize the possibility of becoming a victim.
TIP: Don’t wire escrow through email
If you receive an email asking to wire funds, no matter how legitimate it looks, DO NOT wire funds! Also do not correspond via phone numbers received in said email. According to Cookson, there has been a significant amount of cases where a broker email has been spoofed, hacked or duplicated to give the appearance of an email coming from the broker a client is working with. It is not normal to receive a wire request by email. Double or even triple verify before wiring any funds.
What to do if a potentially fraudulent email is received
Call and confirm all wiring instructions with the broker or the escrow company being used. Do not call any phone numbers from the email or email signature. Instead, use a phone number from the business’ website found through an internet search or at the company’s direct URL (For example: compasscommercial.com or westerntitle.com). Title and escrow companies are diligent about making sure their clients are safe when wiring payments.
TIP: Contact the title office with any questions
To ensure this, contact the escrow office you’re working with for any questions about the process for wiring. If you aren’t sure about which title company will be used in your property transaction, contact the broker by phone and ask.
Report odd emails
Forward the email to the broker or title agent it supposedly came from. This will allow all parties to be aware if there is fraudulent activity surrounding their company or email. They can then have their IT support mitigate the issue.
In an effort to combat fraud, Western Title & Escrow offers some additional resources, please click the links below.
- Western Title contacts in Oregon to verify wire transfer details (click here)
- 4 Steps to Prevent Wire Fraud (click here)
- FBI Recommended Self-Protection Strategies (click here)