Scammers use realtors to steal closing costs
It's one of the biggest investments most people ever make: purchasing a home. Real estate sales are up, and so are ways to scam buyers out of their money.
After building the house of their dreams and raising their kids, Pat Sheeler and her husband are downsizing.
"We've reached an age where we don't need all this space," says Pat. "This house was built for a family. Our family has moved on so it's time for us to share this house with someone else."
They're now buying a smaller home. And, already the scams are coming.
"I get people who wanna buy my house for cash. We saw the listing we have a buyer."
Fortunately, the longtime banker can spot those scams a mile away. But, there's a newer trick taking many buyers by surprise. Hackers sneak into realtors' email accounts, track buyer activity, then make their move.
"They'll have the right phone number, right address, names spelled correctly," says Real Estate Agent, Terry Crutchfield. She's been a realtor more than 15 years.
It's the closing cost trick. Buyers receive an email that looks exactly like it's from their trusted realtor or title company. It has their logo, along with instructions to wire the closing cost money to finalize the sale of their new home. The money goes to a bank account overseas. The eager and unsuspecting buyer loses their cash.
"The buyer is so excited, and just want to do what they have to do," says Crutchfield. "They don't want to cause a delay. It could cost you thousands of dollars."
Crutchfield says the first thing you need to do is stop. Do not respond to the email. Do not call any numbers they may provide. Contact your realtor.
"You have to validate," says Crutchfield. "Always validate, because this is becoming more and more prevalent."
Sheeler, who keeps close contact with her agent, has managed to avoid such scams. Her advice: stay vigilant, and work with a real estate agent who keeps communication with you open.
In some cases. Buyers have been able to get their money back, though not often. We hope this never happens to you, but if it does, Crutchfield says contact police and get an attorney. But, realtors say prepare for the likelihood of not recovering your money.