Hackers Hijacking E-mails Sent to Homebuyers
The moment you are about to make the final payment for your new home before the closing should be one of sweet relief. It should be cause for celebration. Yet, a new scam has been discovered that is robbing this moment from potential homebuyers across the nation.
According to FBI reports, reports of this scam have increased by 480 % nationwide. Its victims stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is how it works:
Toward the end of the home buying process, a title company will send an e-mail asking the buyer to wire a payment for the purchase. Hackers are already monitoring exchanges between the two parties. At some point, they intercept the e-mails and insert fraudulent information. The money ends up being wired to an account under the hacker’s control.
Steve and Claudia Tadevich lost approximately $200,000 to a scam just like this. The couple were in the process of moving to Minnesota in order to be closer to their grandchildren. They had been renting while looking to buy a townhome in the Twin Cities. The company handling the sale sent an e-mail with the buyers' closing information attached to it. The e-mail even explained how to make a bank-to-wire transfer before the scheduled closing. The message seemed perfectly legitimate and was sent by Courtney Pennington of Edgewater Title. However, their money was stolen never to be seen again.
Jeffrey Van Ness, Associate Division Counsel of the FBI’s Minneapolis office reported: “Over the past three years, we have tracked approximately 14,000 victims in the United States with a fraud loss approaching one billion dollars.”
The 14th Amendment, which dictates search and seizure protocol, tends to work to a hacker’s advantage. Hacker's activity is not limited by our physical borders. An expert in cybercrime was able to trace the bogus Edgewater e-mail to Bucharest, Romania. The bottom line is that this can happen virtually anywhere.
So, what can you do to protect yourself from becoming the next victim?
- Stop blindly accepting the information in e-mails, regardless of how legitimate they appear.
- Make a phone call or visit the source in person, especially regarding a matter as serious as buying a home.
- Verify, verify, verify. Verify e-mail addresses. Verify phone numbers. If your finances are involved, do not just hit reply or call numbers listed in the e-mail.
If you suspect fraud, act quickly. Contact your financial institution and freeze the funds. You can file a complaint with the FBI, regardless of dollar loss, at www.IC3.gov. If you have any problems with fraud in your real estate purchase, please contact our office for a free initial consultation so that we can further discuss your situation.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
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