Homebuyers need to be careful of down payment scheme

Hackers like to target homeowners at end of the month


For Brian Bridges, it was a real estate deception he never saw coming.

An email forwarded by their realtor included instructions from the title company to wire funds for the down payment of their new home.

“You see the stuff in the news right, and then it’s happening to you,” Bridges said. “It’s a gut punch.”

That gut punch was him sending a $46,000 down payment to hackers.

The realtor for Brian and his wife Sandie forwarded the instructions from her business account. 

But a forensic search confirmed their realtor’s account had been compromised. The IT address for the fake title company led to an account in South Africa. 

First time homebuyer Ryan Winters lost his down payment in a similar scam we told you about in October. 

“(They were) saying that I needed to wire transfer the money into the escrow account, which was $28,600,” Winters said. 

The email had his title company’s name and logo. It had the escrow officer’s picture with her name and there were even wiring instructions that followed. 

So Winters forwarded the money, only to hear from his realtor moments later.

“It’s heart crushing,” he said. “Every day, it’s the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning.”

Realtor association president Jeffrey Fagan said hackers time their move for the end of the month, when many closings occur.

“If you drop your guard, you can get caught,” Fagan said. 

To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, keep in mind that if you get an email that appears to be from your title company and it includes wiring instructions, do not respond before talking to your real estate agent. 

The agent would know if it’s legit.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also has the following tips:

  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the email to the link that you are actually directed to.
  • Log on to the official website, instead of linking to it from an unsolicited email.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.
  • If you are a victim of spear phishing, you can also file a report with the FBI.




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