Wire transfer scams continue to plague the real estate industry, but brokers are deploying countermeasures and collaborating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to catch these criminals. WAV Group was provided with an insiders’ overview of a recent victory by the FBI to shut down a huge ring of scammers. The story was amazing.
The first thing that you should know if that a lot of these crime rings are operating out of Ghana, Nigeria, and other African nations.
They Use Mules
How many of you have gotten an email or a Facebook post that says something like “I have millions of dollars or pounds of gold that I need to get out of Africa?” These scammers send out millions of these emails all of the time, and some idiots actually click on it. They also create fake profiles on dating sites in an effort to connect with a mule. They even operate fake non-profits!
When they catch a fool, they create a fake relationship with that person. In many cases, it’s a guy posing as a woman. Once they have their hook into them, they say that they are going to wire money into their account and then they need to wire the money to Ghana. In one case, they created a story that they were building a mansion in Africa and that they wanted to ship furniture, appliances, iPhones, and a bunch of other merchandise to the Mule who would in turn, fill a shipping container and send it to Africa.
These mules are located in the United States and think that they are doing a favor for their love interest. What they are really doing is laundering money and other goods.
Broker Helps the FBI Win!
A broker who did not get defrauded was able to help the FBI with a Sting operation. Before the theft could occur, this unnamed broker contacted the FBI and worked with them. Thirteen indictments and 15 prosecutions were made. Four people have already pled guilty. Four other extradition packets are in the works.
Many of the mules are helping the FBI catch the thieves abroad. Here is story of the biggest sting operation https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Tamale-sakawa-king-arrested-in-10-million-gold-scam-607042
How to Protect Your Company
Unless you have some business reason not to, a best practice is to block all IP addresses from those nations. According to the FBI, these criminals are not using exotic technology tools for masking their IP addresses. Avoid web-based free email accounts. Be careful when you post to social media, especially job duties and descriptions – hierarchal information and out of office details. By the way – email signatures are good to have too – since they do not work with web-based email accounts.
Train your agents and clients. Wire Transfer instructions should be handled carefully and always confirmed by telephone. Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to act quickly.
What To Do If You Get Hit
- Contact your bank immediately and speak to the appropriate contact who has the authority to recall a wire transfer. It typically takes 24-72 hours for the money to move, so they can put in a recall or SWIFT Recall message.
- Tell you bank that you want them to fully cooperate with law enforcement. You must tell your bank this. Without your authorization, there is not much the FBI can do to help you.
- Report the incident to the FBI at www.ic3.gov and provide all of the details for the beneficiary – account numbers, contact information, names, etc.
- Contact your local FBI Field Office. If it is an international wire transfer, the FBI can attempt a Financial Kill Chain.
Special thanks to The Realty Alliance and to Crye-Leike Realtors for their incredible efforts to create industry collaboration and share best practices.
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