Published in El Pais, November 21st 2019.
Earlier I read an article about a man who lost $800,000 in a wire fraud scheme. He was in the middle of buying a California condominium when fraudsters hacked the real estates account and requested the money be transferred to another account. Eager to close the deal on this condo, the man agreed to deposit the money in the new account without asking further to later find out that he had been a victim of fraud. Wire fraud is on the rise and while this man does have my sympathy, the fact is he is partially to blame for this mishap.
This may seem a little harsh to some, but the reality is many fraud victims are responsible for the losses that have bestowed upon them. Often, they are offered rewards that are too good to be true such as large amounts of cash for doing little to no work or offered very high interest rates for loans. By the time they realize what has happened it is too late as the money has been wired offshore with almost zero chance of collecting.
Of course, the banks must be vigilant themselves as they can often be on the hook for the losses if the victim does not have the money to pay them back and in this situation the email was flagged as suspicious and they should have refused to send the money but often times clients can be pushy and they end up getting what they want.
So, what are we to do to prevent ourselves from suffering a similar fate? It never hurts to be careful. In the case above a simple phone call to the real estate agent to confirm the new account would have prevented this unfortunate situation. Remember, time is the enemy of all fraudsters, the more time you take to think, the more likely they will be found out. This is your hard-earned money. Do not let anyone take it from you.