The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) warns homebuyers to verify the identity of anybody who asks them to wire a down payment, closing costs, or other funds.
A Washington State consumer reports that she almost lost $100,000 to scammers posing as her loan officer. The consumer reports that she got an email from her loan officer instructing her to wire her down payment. Per the e-mailed instructions, the consumer wired $100,000 to the Chase bank account of a person in Nevada. After the consumer wired the down payment, she learned that her loan officer’s e-mail account had been compromised and that a scammer had instructed her to wire the money. According to the consumer, the e-mail came from the loan officer’s business e-mail account and did not otherwise raise suspicion.
Many victims of this kind of scam do not get their money back, but the consumer in this case did. A bank employee identified the scam and stopped the money from being wired out of the country. It is often impossible to get money back after it’s wired.
How To Protect Yourself
If homebuyers receive e-mails instructing them to wire money, homebuyers can take the following precautions:
- Look up the sender’s phone number (don’t use phone numbers in the e-mail), call them, and verify whether they actually sent the e-mail.
- Look up the escrow agent or title company involved in the transaction (again, don’t use phone numbers in the e-mail), call them, and verify whether the instructions in the e-mail are legitimate.
All Washington consumers can take the following precautions when asked to wire money:
- Do not send money to someone you have not met in person.
- Stay informed about current scams involving money transfers (see below).
- Never send money to someone that has paid you with a check and then asks you to send them money back.
- Make sure that the company or person you are sending to is legitimate.
- Contact the money transmitter immediately if you think you’ve been scammed.
- When sending money, verify that the money transmitter is licensed. You can do this by using the “Verify a License” feature at www.dfi.wa.gov
- Do not provide any personal information (like social security numbers and bank account numbers) to companies not authorized to do business or to people you don’t know.
Important Information for All Consumers
- If you feel you have been the victim of a scam you can contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) or online at www.ftc.gov; or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or online at www.consumerfinance.gov.
- If the scammers already have your bank account information, social security number, or other personal information, you may be a victim of identity theft. You can contact your bank and the three major credit bureaus to take appropriate precautions. The FTC has information for victims of identity theft online at www.ftc.gov.
- If you feel you have been the victim of a scam involving the internet you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center online at www.ic3.gov.
- If you feel you have been the victim of a financial scam and are concerned about your personal financial information, you can contact your banking institution and the three major credit bureaus. Procedures for contacting the credit bureaus are available on the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov.
- Keep informed about common scams. Visit www.consumer.ftc.gov and click on “Scam Alerts” for information about recent scams.