Have you been considering buying a home? Have you saved up a large amount of money so you can make a large cash down payment? If so, good for you, but take care. In the last few years internet scammers have been stealing closing money by inserting themselves into the middle of real estate transactions, pretending to be the closing company and having the buyer wire closing money to a bank account especially set up to receive the money from the transaction. Once the money is received, the money is withdrawn and the account closed. And the buyer is left with nothing.
The exact methodology will vary, but the scam is carried out by the scammer intercepting emails between the buyer, realtor and the title company, and changing the wording, the time and the bank for closing. You don’t notice because the scammer may subtly change email addresses. Is your closing agent email@example.com? Would an email from firstname.lastname@example.org raise alarm bells. Probably not. In the excitement of buying a new home, little details become lost.
Real estate closings are being done more and more by email and internet. You will probably never meet your closing agent, and maybe only talk to them once or twice, or are you really talking to the closing agent? Scammers have been known to put in a temporary cell phone number into their emails so they can take a call, pretending to be the closing agent.
What can you do to protect yourself? Google “real estate closing scams”. Educate yourself on what is taking place in the real world. Talk to your real estate agent as well as the closing agent to make sure you are dealing with the right people. If you are emailed wiring instructions, call the person who sent them to verify that these are the right instructions and don’t use the phone number that comes with the email, look up the number on the closing agent’s website, or ask your realtor to confirm you have the right information. Be proactive and protect yourself. You can get that dream property, but be careful. Once the money is gone, you will have to sue someone to get it back, and no one wants that.