Despite economic signals that suggest an overall cooling of the American housing market in 2019, the situation in Irvine remains very similar to what was experienced the previous year: steady appreciation of real estate values and healthy demand. International buyers and home flippers are gradually receding from Irvine, thus paving the way for first-time home buyers and long-term property investors, and the quality-of-life factor will likely continue to attract interest among house hunters. However, scammers are also attracted to active housing markets. What this means for prospective buyers is that they still need to be alert. Escrow fraud is a type of scam that has been on the rise in recent years. Here are some recommendations to avoid falling victim to this crime.
Keep an Eye Out for Illegitimate Escrow Providers
In the Golden State, providers of real estate escrow services must be licensed by the California Commissioner of Corporations, with certain exceptions. For example, escrow licensing isn’t required of banks and attorneys. Your best bet is to rely on established title insurance companies, which often act as closing agents and are contracted by mortgage lenders. If you intend to secure 100 percent of the title by means of a cash transaction, you should only trust the recommendations of an attorney or a licensed real estate agent in Irvine.
Secure Your Personal Computing Devices
Once you start evaluating Irvine listings, make sure the desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones you use are protected by a firewall and antivirus software. Hackers who are able to breach your devices won’t always try to pose as escrow agents, but they may start looking for information such as bank accounts, contracts, mortgage documents, and passwords.
Beware of Phishing Attacks
One of the most common methods of escrow fraud seen in recent years involves deceptive emails that seem to be related to real estate closings. Let’s say hackers find out you’re dealing with ABC Realty and XYZ Bank. Armed with this information, they may craft an email, complete with logos of the companies you’re working with, directing you to wire money to specific bank accounts. One way to prevent phishing attacks is to follow up each email with a telephone call to double-check bank accounts.
Ignore Western Union, MoneyGram, and PayPal Requests
California title and escrow companies only work with state-licensed banks. They’ll never utilize money transfer services such as Western Union for real estate closings. Even if your purchase agreement requires a good faith deposit, it shouldn’t be transferred via money transfer—only through wire instructions issued by the escrow agent.
Pay Attention to Wire Instructions
Standard procedure in California real estate closings involves signing and notarizing the document containing wire instructions if it isn’t presented at the closing table. At any stage of the closing process, buyers or sellers can scrutinize wire instructions and demand that a public notary witness the money transfer agreement if it hasn’t already been done.
New scams are appearing every day, so it’s important to keep an eye out for fraud whenever you can, especially with large transactions such as buying real estate. It’s also important to work with trustworthy, experienced professionals whenever possible. If you’re looking to buy property in Irvine, you can rely on the experts at Irvine Residential Living to give you the honest, specialized advice you need. Call one of our friendly agents today at 714-454-6304.