Email closing scam dupes D.C. buyers out of $1.3M
WASHINGTON – Aug. 14, 2017 – A couple lost $1.5 million in the purchase of their dream home in Washington, D.C., because of a real estate scam that is nabbing more victims across the country.
The couple put down $200,000 on the home and waited for closing. They then received an email that appeared to be from their title company with directions to wire the remaining funds for the purchase. The couple replied to the email to double-check the instructions. When they received a reply, they proceeded to wire the remaining $1.3 million to what they thought was a legitimate bank. But when they went to sign the papers at settlement, they realized they had been scammed.
“When you have a young child, and you move into your house for the first time, and you close on that house – that should be a really special moment. Not a moment when a massive amount of money is stolen from you,” Michael Nadel, the couple’s attorney, told NBC News 4 in Washington. “So the whole experience has been marred.”
The couple was still able to purchase the home thanks to inheritance money, but they’re suing the title company and others in hopes to recover the stolen funds.
The FBI is investigating the incident and says the computer servers of the title company, Federal Title and Escrow, were likely hacked. “Federal Title’s internal review has determined that no other customers were affected by this attack,” a company spokesperson told the television station.
Such scams are becoming more common. The National Association of Realtors® has been issuing warnings to members about scams where hackers are breaking into the email of real estate professionals in order to provide clients with fraudulent wiring instructions for their downpayment or closing funds. Emails containing “new” wiring instructions may appear to come from the customers’ agent, title representative or attorney.
Urge your clients to call first if they receive such an email. Also, they should not go by the phone number on the email but look up the number to make sure it’s the correct one.
Source: “D.C. Homebuyers Lose $1.5M in Title Scam,” NBC-4 (Washington, D.C.) (Aug. 9, 2017)