Don't Get Hooked by this Real Estate Phishing Scam

 
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It’s happening more and more: an email phishing scam that could trick some homebuyers into parting with their life savings just before they get the keys to their new home. If you’re in the process of buying, it’s good to be on the lookout as you prepare to complete your purchase.

 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Homebuyers prepare to sign papers for their mortgage.
  2. Sometime near the time of their signing, they receive an email that appears to be from their escrow agent or another representative involved in their real estate purchase.
  3. The email requests that the buyer change their method of making their down payment. Usually, the email will request that funds be sent by wire instead of their previously agreed-to arrangement.
  4. The buyer, not thinking much of it, may in fact wire the funds — often tens of thousands of dollars — only to discover that the email was in fact a phishing scam designed to prey on real estate buyers.

 

One sure-fire way to know it’s not legit: These fund requests for real estate transactions will often ask the buyer to wire funds directly to an individual person, not to a company such as the bank you’re working with on your mortgage. Whether it does or does not name a person, though, it’s still best to confirm with your realtor.

 

NOTE: Scammers are great at “spoofing” emails.
These messages may appear just like a standard email from the assumed sender — including logos and web links. But that doesn’t mean they’re legit. Checking in with a phone call (rather than an email response that will go back to the scammer) will help you confirm any actual changes to your agreement.

Note: Horizon Bank will never send you emails such as the one described above but what should you do if you receive this type of email from another sender?

  • Do NOT wire funds or respond to the email!
  • Call your realtor or bank to verify your transaction details and tell them about the email you received.
  • If appropriate, report the email to police as well.