If you’re selling your home, watch out for the ‘mortgage wire fraud’ scam

Scammers hack your email pretending to be your title company
Scammers hack your email and pretend to be your title company to hijack your money.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 5:57 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — You’ve finally found the perfect place to call home. You’ve got your down payment ready after years of savings. You’re just about to close the deal when a con artist dupes you into paying them thousands instead. “It’s such a big issue,” Deanne Rymarowicz said. She’s the associate counsel for the National Association of Realtors.

Rymarowicz says it’s a heartbreaking situation for many scam victims. It’s a scheme known as mortgage wire fraud. “You’ve worked to get this money! You’ve worked so hard to get this money and then to have it literally stolen?!! I can’t even imagine!” Rymarowicz said.

Rymarowicz says scammers strike when buyers attempt to electronically wire transfer their down payment to the title company working on their sale. The problem is con artists intercept those funds by posing as real estate agents, banks, or title companies. “They hack into the email, and then they sit back, and they wait! And when it comes time to send closing instructions and wire instructions, they insert their own email. A lot of times the parties will fall for this and send their money to basically the hacker!” Rymarowicz said.

And that leaves the prospective homeowner out thousands of dollars. Josh Planos is with the Better Business Bureau. “We’ve heard of scammers impersonating legitimate lenders via phishing tactics, or phone number spoofing or SMS messaging. And the goal is just to get your money, plain and simple,” he said.

Planos says to familiarize yourself with how the wiring process works by triple checking the instructions. “Most folks never experience wiring money until this very moment. And because of that, they probably don’t know the steps that go into it,” he said.

Planos says also beware of last-minute changes. If you have any questions before sending funds, he says to contact your bank and make sure the name on the receiving account is the title company you’re doing business with. “Confusion is always a scammer’s best friend,” Planos said.

Finally, if there is a request for a last-minute change, then verify that information with a phone number that you’ve independently checked.