Verify Escrow

Call - Click - Confirm

Attention to Realtors and Sales Agents: Consider adding the Call-Click-Confirm Method as a “Best Practice” recommendation for your clients.

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STEP 1: CALL

your escrow company as soon as you receive any wire instructions. Even if it looks like the communication came from your escrow company, call them directly to verify the address and to verify that they in fact sent that communication.

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STEP 2: CLICK

to wire a very small amount of money as a test, but no more than $50. Do not send the full amount on the first transfer. If the address is in fact fraudulent, you may not be able to recover the stolen funds.

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STEP 3: CONFIRM

with your escrow company that they received the amount you sent to the exact wire address. Once this is confirmed with your escrow company, you can then wire the remaining funds. TIP: best practice is to always call immediately to confirm receipt of funds after sending them via wire transfer.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of escrow fraud:

Realizing that you’ve fallen victim to escrow fraud can be devastating and can be an extremely difficult process to reverse.

Act fast!

Once you realize you’ve been scammed, contact your escrow company immediately and inform them of the situation. You must act as fast as possible. Reporting the fraudulent activity quickly may increase your chances of getting your money back, but unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Contact the FBI and file a complaint

If you are the victim of escrow fraud or online wire fraud, alert the FBI by filing a complaint here.

Recommendations

Don’t call any phone numbers provided in emails

If you think you’re being scammed, your first instinct may be to call and confirm with your escrow company and that is exactly correct. However, don’t click on any phone numbers within the email you’ve received. Scammers are able to spoof phone numbers meaning that the phone number provided looks like your escrow company’s, but it actually directs to the scammer. Scammers are often waiting patiently by the phone, ready to answer the call pretending to be your escrow company to bring you false peace of mind

Be aware of emails creating a sense of urgency for your transaction

Scammers may create a false sense of urgency to encourage the consumer to act quickly in hopes that they believe the validity of the transaction. Scammers may send emails with subjects similar to:
“URGENT NOTICE: Final Instructions for Closing Funds”
The use of capital letters and the word choice of this line are designed to create a sense of urgency with the buyer to finalize their transaction. However, if you have a reputable escrow company, they will never send you instructions for any wire transfer via email.

Be aware of sudden changes to your transaction

Not all transactions require money wiring. If you’ve made a plan with your escrow company or real estate agent to write a check, be very suspicious of any emails stating that you must now wire your funds instead. Always call and confirm any details with the company you’re working with. If you haven’t discussed this previously with your agent, do not send funds until it is confirmed to be a valid request.

Answer phone calls with caution

Call spoofing is a method used to disguise a phone number as a different number. In this case, the number of your escrow company. While it looks valid, pay attention to what the person on the other line is saying. They may say they have new and urgent information for you about your transaction, but first, they need you to verify your personal information. Red flag! Your escrow company already has your information and likely has kept you up to date with your purchase. Don’t give them your personal information. Tell the caller you’d like to verify this call for your safety, hang up, and dial the number provided to you by your escrow company. They will be able to verify if the call was legitimate or if it was fraudulent.

The bottom line is: trust your gut

Scammers are trying to be subtle and they’re relying on consumers overlooking the little details. Remember, it’s extremely unlikely that wire instructions will be sent to you via email or phone in the first place. Scammers are hoping that you’ll stay uninformed and naive, stay educated and prove them wrong.