Last month, a local market attorney received an email from a client confirming that they had received his email with updated wire instructions for an upcoming transaction, and had sent the payment.
Just one problem — the attorney hadn’t sent any email with “updated wire instructions.”
Upon a closer look, the client had received an email from the exact same address as the attorney’s, but with a zero substituted for an “o.”
Such a minor difference is no glitch, and can be the difference between a clean transaction and thousands lost, or at least hours of stressful efforts to reverse a mistake.
When it comes to your finances and personal information, avoiding scammers sounds like common sense, and the need to do so isn’t news to anyone.
But as scamming techniques evolve to disguise their intentions in new and different ways, it is always a good idea to refresh yourself on ways to avoid inadvertently putting yourself at risk, or allowing your clients to do so.
Wire fraud tips to consider
In any transaction, clarify early on to clients how payments will be handled, either in person or over the phone as it lets both parties know what to expect and when. Now the client knows to be immediately skeptical of anything that does not fall within what was previously communicated.
For transactions of $50,000 or less, you can easily make wiring instructions a moot point–suggest a cashier’s check.
Have you noticed how user-specific advertisements have become, especially on smartphones? Scammers, apps, advertisers, and services we rely on are more adept than ever at hunting through our data. Scammers can catch wind of an upcoming financial transaction and ask for your information on behalf of the other party, a scheme which would likely be dead on arrival if you have already told your clients exactly what to expect.
Fraudsters are notorious for pressing urgency, not unlike the old stereotype of used car salespeople. By threatening that a previously unforeseen deadline is rapidly approaching, or that a limited time opportunity is expiring, the hope is that you will put caution to the wind and make an irrational decision. If something seems sketchy, pump the brakes and call your contact for confirmation, regardless of deadlines in the email.
Fraudsters can appear as anyone, including agents, attorneys, and title companies, and often take on the name and email address of a real person (often one you already know and work with) but with the email address one number or letter off. Almost all reputable title companies use a secure online portal or have wiring instructions posted on their website, so do not provide your wiring instructions or use any you have received from an email. Remember that wiring instructions do not change, so be highly wary of any last minute “updated instructions.”
Update passwords to make them more complex. Some browsers and security programs, such as LastPass, will not only randomly generate passwords for you, they will store them securely and paste them into the password box when you encounter each website.
While email servers have gotten much better about not allowing your computer to be infiltrated by malware just from opening a spam email, you still don’t want to do that: scammers can often see that you opened it, which could only lead to more spam coming your way. Deleting it right away is good, but marking it as spam is better, as it will train your email system to recognize similar future emails. Never click on links or open attachments in suspicious emails.
For more information about how Landtrust Title Services protects you against wire fraud, contact your account executive.