Wire Fraud on the Rise

E-mail hacking and wire fraud schemes are on the rise in the mortgage industry. In the past few years, homebuyers have been schemed into losing thousands of their hard-earned dollars, and unfortunately, a lot of that money has not been recovered.

So what exactly is wire fraud? It’s a crime in which a person (hacker) creates a scheme to defraud or steal money based on fabricated information. It is common for hackers to gain access to e-mail addresses, whether they are from a settlement agent, title company, realtor or mortgage lender, and impersonate them. The hacker will send an authentic looking e-mail to the borrower with a new set of wire instructions. These wire instructions route the money to a fraudulent bank account rather than the settlement agent’s account. Once the money is out of the borrower’s account, it is very difficult to trace where it was sent, making it tough to recover.

While this is a widespread problem, there are ways borrowers can prevent being schemed into wire fraud.

  • Carefully verify all e-mail addresses on every e-mail received and sent. Hackers will slightly adjust the appearance of an e-mail address to make it seem like an original copy. Even if the signature line and logos are exactly the same, pay attention to the actual e-mail address.
  • Always call the settlement agent to confirm the wire instructions before sending any money. Use a previously known or verified phone number.
  • Instead of wiring money, ask if a certified check or cashier’s check can be brought to closing.
  • If you receive an e-mail changing the wire instructions, call the settlement agent immediately! Wire instructions seldom change. Again, use a previously known or verified number. DO NOT use the phone number in the e-mail with the revised wire instructions, this could be a number directed to the hacker.
  • After wire instructions and have confirmed and money wired, call the settlement agent to confirm the money was received.
  • Instead of having wire instructions sent through e-mail, pick them up from the settlement agent’s office.

If you suspect you have been targeted for wire fraud or something seems out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to reach out to your loan officer or settlement agent. Raising concern and asking a few extra questions is a lot better than losing thousands of dollars, and most likely losing the house you worked so hard to get.

Equifax Breach and How You’re Affected

Equifax is one of the oldest and largest credit-monitoring companies, aggregating information on over 800 million consumers.  The company provides detailed information about personal credit and payment history of individuals, indicating whether they are eligible to receive a loan.  In order to provide a full credit report, Equifax houses an enormous amount of sensitive data, such as full names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and sometimes driver’s license numbers.

Last week, Equifax revealed their data had been compromised during a cyber-security breach which occurred mid-May through July 2017.   Hackers gained access to personal information on 143 million American consumers.  Equifax also confirmed at least 209,000 consumers’ credit card credentials were taken during this attack.   This means that the opportunity for identity theft has tremendously increased for the majority of American residents.

We at First Home Mortgage understand the seriousness of this attack and need you to realize how important it is to take action immediately and be pro-active so identity theft does not happen to you.

How can I be proactive? Help!

First, monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity.  Check to see if new accounts have been opened that you did not open, late payments on debt you do not recognize or fraudulent charges made on a card.  You can check your credit report free, once a year here.  If you suspect identity theft, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately.

For extra protection, freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus.  This is the best way to prevent identity theft.  Once accounts are frozen, you will not be able to open new lines of credit or have your credit checked without lifting the freeze.  Contact each bureau immediately to freeze your account.  Or, request a freeze online.  Note: You will not be able to freeze your credit if you are currently pending a large purchase or financing activity.

  •                Equifax:  1-800-349-9960 or  Click Here
  •                TransUnion:  1-888-909-8872 or  Click Here
  •                Experian:  1-888-397-3742 or  Click Here

Equifax is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to all who may have been impacted, for one year.  You may also enroll in Equifax’s program to see if you are one of the millions affected by the hack.  To get started, enroll here to begin.  The enrollment process must be completed by November 21, 2017.

For additional information on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, click here.  This site will guide you on how to report identity theft if, for example, someone else filed a tax return using your information, if your information was exposed in a data breach or anything else.

Still not sure how to get started or need additional information? Contact your local First Home Mortgage Loan Officer today and they will help point you in the right direction. 

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