Are you in the process of buying a home or refinancing? Are you aware that scammers are targeting email accounts of realtors and escrow/title companies in order to steal your hard earned money? Homebuyers from across the country are being victimized at an increasing rate. Here is how the scam works:
The scammer hacks into the email account of the real estate agent or escrow officer. The scammer monitors the email correspondence between the realtor/escrow officer and the homebuyer, and creates an email nearly identical to the realtor/escrow officer’s email, including their writing style, logos, and signatures. Around the time the homebuyer would normally expect to receive instructions on how to wire the closing costs, down payments, fees, etc, the scammer sends an email (which appears to be from the realtor/escrow officer) to the homebuyer. The email instructs the homebuyer to wire the money to a specified account, which actually belongs to the scammer rather than a legitimate company. This goes undetected by the realtor/escrow officer.
This scam also targets people in the refinance process, and any other transaction requiring the wire transfer of money.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from these scammers:
Before you wire money, speak with your realtor/escrow officer in person or by phone to determine that the wiring instructions and account number are legitimate.
Do not email your financial information; it’s not secure.
If you plan to transmit your financial information electronically, look for a URL (World Wide W eb address) that begins with https (the “s” stands for “secure”). 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.
As always, be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from email, regardless of who they are from. These files can contain malware.
Ensure your browser and security software are up to date.
Citizens of Culver City who have been victimized by this or similar scams are encouraged to call the Culver City Police Department at (310) 253–6308. If you have not suffered a financial loss, but wish to report the incident, please contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.