As we increasingly move towards online-based transactions, cyber criminals are finding new and creative ways to steal money.
So, what can you do to make sure you don’t fall prey to these malicious attacks? Here are the most common types of real estate fraud schemes and some ways that you can safeguard yourself.
One of the most common types of real estate fraud is wire fraud. Fraudsters send you an email or text that outlines instructions on where to wire your deposit funds to be held in trust.
These cybercriminals may even set up a fake website that looks similar to your lending company’s site. The phone number, URL and email addresses will typically look familiar. They might just be one letter or number off. It’s an easy thing to miss if you aren’t looking closely.
If you send the money this way, the scammers can withdraw your money from some offshore account and you are left a victim of fraud.
You get an email telling you that you are pre-approved for a special mortgage loan with a super-low interest rate. Often, these “mortgage agencies” are fraudulent loan companies that offer a steep discount on loans if you pay an upfront fee.
Be wary of any service that asks for your banking information or other sensitive information. Do your research on the company before moving forward. Ask for a list of referrals you can contact.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
One of the most devastating real estate fraud schemes for property owners is title fraud.
Title fraud usually starts with identity theft. Scammers get a hold of your online passwords and sensitive information. Then, they use fake documents to pose as the property owner and transfer the property to his or her name. They typically take out a mortgage or line of credit against the property. The criminal then takes the cash and runs, leaving you stuck with the payments.
How to protect yourself from real estate fraud schemes
As alarming as these types of fraud are, there are many things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim to these schemes.
Protect your personal data
Use a unique password for each login account. It’s wise to keep your antivirus and security software installed and up to date. And avoid sensitive transactions such as online banking or shopping when you’re using public Wi-Fi.
When conducting online transactions that involve money or personal data, use password-protected emails.
Before you send money or give out sensitive information to a third party, verify that you are dealing with the legitimate company or person.
Make sure you check the original documents from your lender and call the listed phone number to verify the payment instructions.
Get title insurance
If you’re buying property, make sure that you get title insurance. Title insurance is your best protection against title fraud. It also protects you from existing liens on the title, encroachment issues and errors in surveys and public records.
Graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honors BA English Specialization and has completed several publishing courses at Ryerson University. She is a proofreader, editor, and content writer based in London, Ontario.