In June 2017, cybercriminals stole more than $14 million from unsuspecting people. Real estate transactions are especially vulnerable to these wily larcenists.
Real estate purchases routinely involve sending large sums of money by wire. This method is convenient, fast, and generally secure. Still, sophisticated criminals have been able to exploit people’s lack of familiarity with the real estate and escrow process.
One of the most common scams has been to convince an unwary buyer that the instructions for wiring funds have changed at the last minute “for security reasons.” The email, which appears to come from the title company or other settlement service provider, asks the buyer to wire their funds to a different link than previously agreed. The unsuspecting buyer who falls for this deception will discover, too late, that their money has been diverted to the scammer’s offshore account and is gone forever, along with the scammer.
The obvious advice is to avoid getting taken in by this kind of chicanery. Never wire funds without personally verifying with the title company or real estate closing lawyer that any change is genuine. For those unfortunates who may fall prey to the scam, there are some immediate actions that may offer a slim chance to recover the misdirected funds.
- Contact the bank or other financial institution the funds were sent from. They may be able to stop the transfer.
- Contact all parties involved in the real estate transaction, including the title and escrow people, the seller and the agents.
- Inform the FBI immediately. You can file a complaint at www.ic3.gov. This should be done as quickly as possible. Even waiting just 72 hours could be too late for any recovery.
There are few experiences in life that are more stressful, emotional and confusing as buying a home. Criminals are well aware of this and will do their utmost to leverage those aspects to separate unsuspecting people from their money.
Knowledge is key.
Source: Everyone’s favorite mortgage guy, Jason Banks and TBWS