During National Home Ownership Month (June), the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to homeowners, advising them to protect their mortgage closing from scammers. According to the FTC blog post, scammers sometimes use emails to steal closing costs and personal information from homebuyers.
Here’s how the scam works: Hackers break into the email accounts of homebuyers or real estate professionals to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. The hacker then sends an email to the homebuyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the homebuyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it is the scammer’s account. If the homebuyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes.
If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Instead:
- Contact the company through a number or email address you know is real. DON’T use phone numbers or links in the email.
- Don’t open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you’re expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer.
If you’ve already sent money to a scammer, act quickly.
- If you wired money through your bank, ask them right away for a wire recall. If you used a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint lines immediately.
- Report your experience to the FTC and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to ic3.gov.