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7 Tips to Avoid Homebuyer's Fraud

Recently, a local real estate agent, title company, and homebuyer were the targets of fraud.

According to data provided by the FBI, in fiscal year 2017, almost $1 billion was “diverted or attempted to be diverted” from real estate purchase transactions and wired to “criminally controlled” accounts. This shows a 500% increase in real estate internet crime from the previous year.

The real estate market in Helena is hot right now, so buyers should take extra precautions to protect themselves. Here’s a list of seven tips that potential homebuyers should use to be as safe as possible:

  1. Know when you could be targeted and be suspicious and alert. The most vulnerable time is right before a transaction closes and homebuyers prepare to send a wire transfer.

  2. Be wary of wire transfer emails that change the instructions at the last minute or ask you to click a link or enter a password.

  3. Scan the email for typos or other small inconsistencies, including the email address sending the instructions.

  4. Always verify the wire transfer information you received in the email by phone or in person.

  5. Consider using a cashier’s check instead of a wire transfer; change your password regularly.

  6. Never “Reply All” or forward emails only to your intended recipient.

  7. Avoid emailing about wiring instructions on an unsecured network, like that at a local coffee shop.

If you are a victim, don’t wait to report it. The FBI says that it may be able to stop the transfer and recover a buyers’ funds if the wire transfer amount is $50,000 or more, the bank transfer is sent internationally, the bank issues a recall notice, and the FBI is informed of the details within 72 hours.

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