Wire fraud is on the rise, with scammers using email phishing to lure their targets. The quick payment clearing time, which is much faster than ACH or check, makes this method particularly attractive to fraudsters. Plus, once you send a wire transfer, it’s very difficult and at times not always possible to get your money back from the receiving financial institution.

One popular method of this scam targets homebuyers as they enter the closing phase of their purchasing journey. Posing as a real estate agent or other legitimate contact, the scammer requests a transfer of funds to cover closing, titling or other associated costs. Unfortunately, the transfer instructions route to the scammer's bank account, conning their target out of those funds.

Scammers aren’t solely focused on homebuyers, though. They have been known to spoof vendors, colleagues and other known contacts to fool people into transferring money.

The very best way to protect yourself from a scam like this is to call your bank, realtor or whoever supposedly sent the email directly to verify they made the request and that information like routing numbers are correct. Don’t use the phone numbers in the email though, use numbers from your statements, contract or other documents you know to be legitimate.

Beyond that, look for classic signs of phishing—like those below—that can tip off that the request is fraudulent.

  • Be cautious about any email requesting a wire transfer of funds—even if it appears to come from a legitimate source.
  • Double check the email address for anything suspicious; hover your mouse over the “From” address. If it’s something like rob@paypal.com or it’s from a general email address like Gmail or Yahoo, it’s likely from a scammer.
  • Pay close attention to the body of the email for spelling errors or generally poor writing.

Again, these steps are particularly critical for homebuyers who are anticipating emails with wire transfer instructions. They're also important to follow in general to safeguard yourself from scams.

If you believe you may have responded to a phishing request, please contact Navy Federal immediately at 1-888-842-6328. Call us collect internationally at 703-255-8837. Visit our Security Center to learn about other ways to protect your information and accounts.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.