Warning: Re-emerging scam steals home buyers dreams
An old scam that has resurfaced lately will steal not just a home buyer's dreams – but what could be his or her life savings.
Here's what happens:
A home buyer is sent an email giving instructions on how/where to wire their closing funds; cyber-criminals intercept that email, change the instructions, and send it on to the buyer.
The buyer, thinking that he or she is sending closing funds to the proper place, gives those instructions to the bank and the money is sent.
When the money doesn't arrive in time for closing, they investigate and find that it was sent to an account which has now been emptied. Of course the owner of that account was not a real person, so the money is simply – gone.
Considering that a down payment might be 20% of a home's selling price, the loss is devastating. For most of us, even 5% would be a staggering blow – and might represent our life's savings.
Of course, with the money gone, the closing doesn't happen.
How can it happen?
Since computer hackers can get into even the most highly "secure" government and corporate websites in the world, it should come as no surprise that they can get into websites and email programs used by individuals, real estate agents, attorneys, title companies, and even banks.
Once in, these cyber-criminals can read or intercept email – and they can easily replicate an email coming from an agent, an attorney, a title company, or a bank.
How can you avoid falling prey to this scam?
- Get your wiring instructions either in person or over the phone – from someone you already know and trust.
- Deliver the funds in person, in the form of a cashier's check.
In other words – never use email or text messaging for sending or receiving any information that you would not want in the hands of a criminal.