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How to Protect Yourself from Wire Fraud

There’s been a huge increase in wire fraud occurring during the past couple of years, most notably with people who hack into e-mails, send wiring instructions for the closing that include their own wire instructions and then steal the proceeds from the purchase. That begs the question, “How do you safely purchase your home, when you can’t bring a physical check to closing and don’t want to risk wire fraud?” Above all else, be extra cautious when exchanging personal or confidential information such as bank account numbers via e-mail. Here are some additional precautions to take that can help safeguard you so you don’t fall victim of this type of loss.

Set up 2-step authentication
This is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication to access your e-mail account, adding another layer of protection on top of your user name and password. For example, a typical 2-step verification will entail the usual password (something the user knows) and a code sent to the user’s device (something the user has).

Establish strong passwords
Choose a long string of words that computers or people won’t be able to guess. Be sure to add some capital letters, special characters or numbers, and always change your passwords every 120 to 180 days. Avoid passwords that are too personal, for example, don’t use birthdates or first names.

Verify all wiring instructions
If you receive new wiring instructions via e-mail, look up the phone number of the title agency independently and call them to verify. Never use the new phone number provided in the e-mail containing the instructions. Most title companies today send their wire instructions once, ask you to confirm them and then don’t change them via e-mail, so receiving last-minute instructions to send your funds elsewhere should send up a red flag.

Don’t forward wire instructions
Be careful not to send wire instructions to other parties without first verbally verifying the instructions from the sending party.

Be situationally aware
Look out for phishing e-mails that appear to come from somebody you know. If you receive an e-mail that you’re not expecting and it asks you to do something, don’t do it. Call the person to confirm they sent the e-mail, and beware of URLs embedded in the message that don’t match the sender, URLs containing a misleading domain name, and poor spelling and grammar.

Trust your instincts
If you suspect that a wire or check was sent fraudulently, notify the bank and contact the recipient bank to have the best chance at securing the funds.

Feel free to contact your local PERL lender with any questions.