October 22, 2021

How Scammers Use Wire Fraud to Divert Mortgage Closing Costs

One of life’s most memorable and important moments can be the closing of a home mortgage. This is the final stage of a very lengthy – and sometimes stressful – homebuying process which involves the exchange of critical paperwork and sizable down payment funds. Recognizing both the financial and emotional investments associated with the mortgage closing process, a new breed of scammers has emerged targeting real estate professionals, attorneys and their clients with false wire transfer instructions in which closing funds are sent to fraudulent accounts and are lost. 


  How does mortgage closing cost wire fraud work?

Mortgage wire fraud scams are highly sophisticated and rely on a combination of complicated hacking techniques that include phishing and spoofing.  
  • Using the technique of phishing, a scammer will create targeted, well-written fake emails that impersonate someone you trust like your real estate agent or closing attorney. The emails look authentic and may contain personal information retrieved from a hacked real estate agent or attorney's email system. 
  • Scammers may also use a technique called spoofing which is a special software that integrates your real estate agent's email address or phone number, making it look official and trustworthy. Using either technique, the scammer acquires critical information about you, your loan and how much you owe for closing.
The goal of the scammer is to get your closing cost funds into their account. Playing on your emotions, the scammer will use last-minute urgency, an error in calculations or claim that you were accidentally sent the wrong wire transfer instructions to coax you into wiring them your closing cost funds. Once a wire transfer is initiated, it’s very difficult to get your money back.  

  Signs to look for

  • Email subject lines that promote a sense of urgency or have last minute changes and/or new, unexpected processes for sending funds (i.e. “URGENT: New Instructions for Wiring Your Closing Funds”)
  • Suspicious website links and unexpected attachments
  • Email address of the sender that has been altered to include additional text to make it look legitimate (such as @realestatecompanyname.home.com)
  • Communication from your real estate agent or closing attorney that is unexpected and not a part of your original closing schedule  

 How to avoid mortgage closing cost wire fraud

  • Prepare in advance to fully understand your closing process
  • Avoid using email when sharing sensitive financial information
  • Write down contact methods for everyone involved in your closing
  • Be aware of anyone who asks you to act fast or send funds immediately
  • Only use phone numbers you know and trust
  • Never email your financial information
  • If you are emailed last minute changes to wiring instructions, call the sender and verify the change before taking any action. In many cases, this means the sender's email was compromised

What to do if you have fallen victim to a wire fraud scam

Contact your bank or the wire transfer company that you used to initiate the wire as soon as possible to report the fraudulent transfer and ask them to attempt to recall the wire.
  • MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947)
  • Western Union at 1-800-325-6000
Report the fraud to your local police department and to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center: https://www.ic3.gov/
Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov where these incidents are shared with law enforcement partners to help with investigations.
Need Help?

Call 888-225-4636

—  or  —

  Email Us