A recent alert from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that scammers are hacking into email accounts and instructing homebuyers to wire closing costs straight into their pockets.
How the Scam Works
You are buying a home and everything is ready for your closing. Then, your real estate agent or title company emails with new instructions. Instead of bringing a check to your closing, you need to wire your closing costs to a bank account.
Don’t do it! You’ll be wiring thousands of dollars into a scam account. Hackers have been breaking into the email accounts of real estate professionals. They search for information about upcoming transactions. After figuring out the closing date, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the agent or title company.
Never accept a change to an agreed transaction based on an email. If someone tells you to deviate from a previous plan, especially one that involves thousands of dollars, check it out before you send a dime. Call your agent or title company and make sure the new directions are legitimate.
Tips to Spot a Phishing Scam
Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.
Consider how the company normally contacts you. If a company usually contacts you by phone, be suspicious if you suddenly start receiving emails or text messages without ever opting into the new communications.
Don’t believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers can fake anything, from a company logo to the “Sent” email address.
If something seems suspicious, check the company’s website or call. Err on the side of caution and confirm before taking any action. Don’t click on any links or call a number in a message you suspect is a scam. If you want to look on the company’s website, look for the URL on your statement or do a web search.
Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Your real estate professional or title company will know that. They will not send nor ask you to provide banking information via email.
For More Information
Read the full alert from the Federal Trade Commission. For real estate agencies, mortgage firms and other companies interested in protecting their businesses from hacking, check out BBB’s 5 Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity.
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB’s Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker/boston).