Buying a home is exciting. You saved for the down payment, scheduled the move, and are dreaming of planting new roots. Closing is right around the corner… unless a scammer gets your settlement fees first.
The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors® are warning home buyers about an email and money wiring scam. Hackers have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, 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 buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. Often, that’s money the buyer will never see again.
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, and your real estate professional or title company should know that. If it’s a phishing email, report it to the FTC.
Here are some ideas to help you avoid phishing scams:
- Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
- If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
- Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
- Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.