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  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , home buying, , , wire fraud,   

    Family loses $160K to home buying scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Lately, we’ve noticed an uptick in news stories about the business email compromise scam. While this is only anecdotal evidence, it can mean that scammers are getting better at it, or more people are coming forward about it. Either way, it seems we can expect to see increasing incidents of the BEC scam.

    For those who may not be familiar, the BEC scam is a scam that targets businesses and individuals who regularly perform wire transfers or make large payments via email. In this scam, the attackers use social engineering tactics to trick the victim into sending money to a fraudulent account instead of the intended recipient.

    In the context of buying a house, the BEC scam typically involves impersonating a real estate agent, lawyer, or title company representative. The attacker sends an email that appears to be from one of these legitimate sources and instructs the homebuyer to wire transfer the funds for the down payment or closing costs to a specified account. The email may seem convincing and use language that mimics that of the real estate professional, including branding and logos.

    A family from Ohio recently fell victim to this scam while closing on their home after the husband retired from the military. Since they were a military family, they are familiar with the home buying process. However, in Ohio, it’s required by law to wire any closing costs over $10,000, instead of paying by check. They received an email from who they thought was the title company, and followed the included instructions on where to wire the funds. The transfer was for $160,000. It wasn’t until the next day when the family discovered the title company wasn’t the one who requested the transfer.

    The family contacted their bank, and the wire transfer was stopped before going into the scammer’s account, but the bank is allegedly dragging their feet as far as issuing a refund to the family. This isn’t surprising considering the amount of bank scams we’ve seen where the banks refuse to issue refunds.

    The family was still able to close on their home, but not everyone has that luxury.

    To avoid falling victim to a BEC scam when buying a house, it is important to always verify payment instructions before sending any money. This can involve calling the real estate professional or company to confirm that the account details are correct. Additionally, it is wise to be cautious of emails that seem urgent or that request immediate wire transfers without sufficient verification.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 21, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , wire fraud   

    When buying a home, double-check that email 

    When buying a home, double check that email

    By Greg Collier

    The business email compromise scam has become popular with scammers over the past few years because it is extremely profitable for them. It only takes one victim to fall for the scam for the scammers to make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    There are typically two versions of the BEC scam. The first one targets corporate interests. Scammers send emails to employees or executives in a company, pretending to be a high-ranking official, such as the CEO or CFO. The email will often instruct the recipient to transfer funds or provide sensitive information such as bank account numbers, passwords, or other personal data.

    The other version of the BEC scam is the one we’re interested in today, and it’s where scammers will try to intercept the wire transfer of funds from the home buyer to the seller or the escrow company.

    For example, a man from Stamford, Connecticut, almost lost $426,000 to BEC scammers. The scammers had infiltrated the man’s email exchanges with his realtor, and told him to wire the money to a fraudulent bank account. Luckily, his bank was able to freeze the transfer before the scammers could make off with his money. Unfortunately, not every BEC scam victim can recover their money.

    A similar thing happened to a retired teacher from Colorado. She lost almost $200,000 to BEC scammers while trying to buy a home. At some point, while exchanging emails with the title company, the conversation was hijacked by scammers. The victim was pressured into wiring the closing costs to a scam account. When she went to the title company to close on the home, she was devastated when they told her they never received any payment. The $200,000 was all the money the woman had. Even with the involvement of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, it’s not certain she’ll recover her money.

    BEC Scams can happen one of two ways. Sometimes the scammer will use an email address that’s similar to the authentic email address. So, when dealing with realtors, banks, and escrow companies, double-check the spelling of the email address before replying. The other way the BEC scam happens is when a company has had their business emails compromised by hackers or malware. In this instance, if the email appears to be legitimate, always double check with a phone call to the party that’s supposedly requesting the payment.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 15, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , wire fraud   

    Bank tells scam victims they gave ‘consent’ to scammers 

    Bank tells scam victims they gave 'consent' to scammers

    By Greg Collier

    Bank customers are being scammed on an almost daily basis. At least the ones who report the scam anyway, It’s more likely that the majority of recent bank scams aren’t reported to the police or media out of embarrassment. It seems that reports of banks not helping their customers who have been scammed has emboldened the bank scammers to fins more victims since they know the bank won’t do anything about it.

    For example, CBS 2 out of Chicago has done a follow-up story on five local bank customers who lost a total of $100,000 to bank impersonation scams.

    Scammers often follow a typical approach where they contact their targets through calls or messages, asking about their recent transactions. They then use coercive tactics to convince victims that transferring their funds to a different account is the only way to protect their bank accounts. Unfortunately, the account to which the money is transferred is usually controlled by the scammer. These accounts are usually regular checking accounts available through major banks and not offshore accounts.

    Out of the five Chicago victims who CBS 2 spoke with, all five were customers of Chase Bank, and only one of them has been reimbursed. The rest of the victims were told by the bank that since they gave personal information to the scammers, the bank considers that the consent of the customer.

    It also doesn’t help that the legislation designed to protect bank customers doesn’t protect victims from wire fraud. If someone uses the victim’s credit or debit card to commit fraud, customers can be reimbursed for that, but victims of wire fraud are out of luck due to a gap in the regulations. We might also add that these regulations were written in the 1970s. Electronic banking has changed a lot in the past 50 years, but the regulators haven’t kept up with the times. We knew that lawmakers are slow when it comes to updating the law to reflect current technology, but we didn’t realizer they were this slow.

    Some consumer advocates recommend that the banks should require some kind of digital ID before a wire transfer could be made. Others suggest the banks should institute a 24-48 hour delay for wire transfers. While these may sound like good ideas, practical application of them could be a headache for customers.

    What these banks really need to do is to prevent scammers from opening the accounts where the victims’ funds are being wired to. They could even institute a delay when an account tries to close out suddenly.

    At least for now, it’s up to the consumer to protect themselves from these scams.

    In case you receive a text message that appears to be from your bank inquiring about fraudulent activity, avoid using the callback feature provided in the message. Similarly, if someone calls you claiming to be from your bank and asks about fraudulent transactions, it’s best to end the call and directly contact your bank through the phone number provided on the back of your debit card.

    If you’ve been the victim of this scam, don’t hesitate to file a police report. While it’s not a guarantee of getting your money back, it does go a long way in helping.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 16, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , wire fraud,   

    Even with agents, property buyers can still be scammed 

    By Greg Collier

    A Durham, North Carolina man loved his home and loved the trees that loomed over his backyard. He wanted to keep the trees standing, but he didn’t own the property the trees stood on. He always thought that if that property became available, he would love to buy it. Recently, the man received a text from a neighbor of his who saw that the property was being listed for sale. The man contacted his real estate agent to help with the purchasing process.

    The man’s real estate agent dealt with the property’s listing agent, which was in nearby Chapel Hill. The listing agent instructed the man to wire $10,000 to the owner of the property, who just happened to be in Vietnam. The Durham man even questioned the method of payment, but was assured by the listing agent that this was appropriate. They closed on the property after another $20,000 was wired overseas. The closing document stated that the owner was now in South Africa.

    About a month after the deal closed, the man received a phone call from his agent telling him that the deal was a fraud. The people the listing agent were dealing with were not the owners of the property, but scammers. The man’s agent informed him that he would be getting his money back, but only received $19,000. The listing agent ended up paying the remainder back to the man out of their own expenses.

    Even professionals can be taken in by scammers. In this case, the listing agent did not verify if they were talking to the actual owners of the property. That’s not to say there weren’t red flags. Anytime when dealing with real estate, and you’re asked to wire money overseas, it’s time to step back and assess the situation. In this instance, the agent’s insurance was able to cover the man’s loss, but in most situations that money would be gone forever.

    When buying a property, insist on going through the traditional closing methods if you’re asked to wire money. If the sellers refuse, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a scammer.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cattle scam, farm scam, , wire fraud,   

    Why you should care about a cattle scam 

    Why you should care about a cattle scam

    By Greg Collier

    The scam we’re about to discuss probably wouldn’t affect the majority of our reading audience. However, we think it goes a long way into showing just how prevalent scams are these days.

    A cattle farmer from Tennessee was looking to add a cow to his livestock. He went on a legitimate livestock marketplace platform called Cattle Exchange. There, he found cattle he was willing to purchase. The seller, who claimed to be from Arkansas, asked for a $15,000 deposit to be sent through wire transfer, with the rest being paid on delivery. After sending the $15,000 deposit, the seller then started asking for the rest of the money before delivery.

    It was at this point the farmer realized that something was wrong. The farmer contacted law enforcement, but unfortunately, his money could not be recovered since the money was sent somewhere out of the country.

    According to the news report, the traditional way to pay for cattle is through a cashier’s check. However, the article states that you should check with the issuing bank before depositing the check to make sure the check is valid.

    So, why should our readers be concerned about a cattle scam? While the odds are pretty good you may not be a cattle rancher, you probably do have an interest which could be considered a niche interest. While I’m sure it’s very profitable, cattle ranching can be considered niche to those of us not involved in the industry.

    No matter how niche or obscure your business, hobbies, or collections can be, the odds are there’s a scammer waiting to take advantage of you. This is especially true when making trades or purchases online. Not only do scams happen on large platforms like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, but they also happen on specialized marketplaces that only cater to a limited audience.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , wire fraud   

    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam 

    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam

    By Greg Collier

    A woman in the state of Georgia was getting ready to close on a new home when she received an email from her lawyer. She was given instructions to wire transfer the $155,000 for the closing costs. However, the money did not go to the attorney. Instead, it went to the bank account of a local scammer who was recently arrested on felony theft charges.

    So, how was the scammer able to fool the victim? This scam is known as the business email compromise scam, or BEC for short. In this scam, the scammers hijack compromised email accounts of real estate attorneys, title companies, or banks. This way, the scammers can monitor the emails for people who are getting ready to close on their homes. Then, the scammers either use the hijacked email address or a spoofed address to give fraudulent instructions to the homebuyer to wire the money to the scammers. Meanwhile, the victims think they just closed on a new home.

    According to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, this scam is becoming more common. This scam is so profitable, the scammers only need one victim to fall for the scam to make a ton of money.

    While you may not be in the market for a home right now, you may be in the future. So, it’s best to have this knowledge now instead of finding out before it’s too late. When the time comes to buy a home, the best way to protect yourself is to verify everything by phone. If you get an email from someone involved in the process asking you to make a substantial payment, call them to verify the request. It might be even better to visit the sender in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the stressful process of buying a new home only to have their dreams of a new home dashed by losing money to a scammer.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , wire fraud   

    Closing costs stolen in real estate scam 

    Closing costs stolen in real estate scam

    By Greg Collier

    This scam doesn’t sound like it should be possible. It seems more like something you would see as a plot point in a movie. That doesn’t change the fact this scam happens rather regularly. While it is a type of phishing scam, this scam doesn’t even have a name for it, as far as we know. We’ve been calling it the closing cost scam, since it targets home buyers who are getting ready to close on their new homes. If it wasn’t for the fact that victims have lost upwards of $100,000, this scam could be considered genius. How it happened recently is especially uncanny.

    A man from Louisville, Kentucky, was getting ready to close on his new home, when he received an email that appeared to come from his closing attorney. The email instructed the man to wire $70,000 in order to prevent any delay with the closing procedure. After wiring the money, the man called his realtor, who informed him that the closing attorney did not send the email. The man tried to get the bank to stop the transfer of funds, but it had already happened, meaning the $70,000 was gone.

    Scammers were able to fool the victim because the email looked almost identical to the ones he had been receiving from his attorney, including the logo and signature. However, there was one minor detail the victim overlooked. The law office had the word Louisville in their name and in their email address. The scammers spelled Louisville in their email address with only one L, spelling it Louisvile.

    Somehow, scammers are getting into the email systems of realtors, lenders, and attorneys, and are monitoring the activity until someone goes to close before setting their trap. The scammers have also been known to stalk social media profiles of people who share with their friends that they’re getting ready to buy a house.

    If you’re getting ready to close on a home, be suspicious of any communication asking you to send money. If you receive an email like the one in the story above, call the sender to verify whether the request is legitimate or not. It would be even better to visit the sender in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the process of buying a new home only to have the deal fall through at the very last minute due to a scammer.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , wire fraud   

    Victim loses closing costs in real estate scam 

    Victim loses closing costs in real estate scam

    By Greg Collier

    When dealing with real estate, rental scams are not the only scam you have to worry about. Lately, we’ve seen an ever-increasing rise in a scam where the victims are set to close on a new home. The scammers are somehow sliding into the home buyer’s email and posing as the loan agency. The scammers then ask for the closing payment to be wired to them. By the time the victim realizes that they’ve been scammed, they’ve lost thousands of dollars with little to no recourse. We can’t even imagine the sense of dread that the victims of this scam feel when they find out they’ve not only lost their closing payment, but also finding out that the deal on their new home might fall through because of it.

    This is exactly what happened to one woman in Alabama when she was getting ready to close on her home. The night before she was getting ready to close on a new home for her and her children, she received an email that appeared to come from her closing agency. The email asked her to wire $6,000 for the closing costs. On closing day, she received a call from her bank asking her if anyone else had contacted her about the closing cost. She was then told that whoever contacted her wasn’t from the bank. As in most cases, once the wire transfer was sent, the money was unrecoverable.

    If you’re working with a loan agency, bank or credit union to obtain a mortgage for a new home, be suspicious of any communication asking you to send money. If you receive an email like the one in the story above, call the bank to verify that they sent the email in the first place. It would be even better to visit the bank in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the process of buying a new home only to have the deal fall through at the very last minute.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: down payment, , , wire fraud   

    Don’t wire the down payment for your house 

    Don't wire the down payment for your house

    By Greg Collier

    When it comes to real estate, one of the most common scams is the rental scam. If you’re a longtime reader you’re probably very familiar with this scam. In the rental scam, the scammer poses as a landlord to a property that they don’t actually own. They’ll advertise the property as being for rent on unmoderated marketplaces like Craigslist. The scammers will then collect money from victims with the payments being disguised as security deposits or first month’s rent. Family’s have moved into these properties only to find out that the property wasn’t even for rent. But what if you’re looking to buy a house? Surely, there are no such scams that could affect home buyers. While not as common as the rental scam, there is at least one scam new home buyers need to look out for.

    A couple who were in the process of buying a new home in Kansas City recently found out about such a scam. In the deluge of emails they were getting from various parties involved in the sale of the home, they received an email that instructed them that their $40,000 down payment would need to be sent by wire transfer. The email wasn’t sent by anyone involved in the process but from a scammer who disguised the emails to look like it was coming from the bank and the title company. Later they received a legitimate email from the title company saying they need to bring a cashier’s check, but by that time the couple had already wired the money to the scammer.

    It’s unknown how the scammers knew the couple was in the process of buying a home. This could have been a phishing attack that just got extremely lucky, or the scammers could have gleaned some information about the couple from social media. In any case, if you’re in the process of buying a new home and someone asks you to wire any money, verify it first with the parties involved and do so by phone call or in person. Wire transfers have long been a preferred method of payment by scammers.

  • Geebo 8:04 am on March 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , wire fraud   

    Woman thwarts virtual kidnapping scam 

    Woman thwarts virtual kidnapping scam

    By Greg Collier

    We often talk about how someone gets taken advantage of in a scam and use it as a way to educate our readers on how to avoid scams. It’s not very often we discuss someone who realized it was a scam before they end up losing thousands of dollars, but that’s the story we have today.

    A woman in Spokane, Washington received a phone call with someone claiming that her sister had been injured and that the woman needed to come get her. She asked the person on the other line if police had been involved yet and the caller’s disposition quickly changed.

    The caller then said that the woman’s sister ‘stuck her nose where it didn’t belong’ and that he needed to ‘rough her up a little’. The caller then demanded a $10,000 ransom, or he was going to sell the woman’s sister to a human trafficking ring overseas. Then the caller threatened violence against the woman if she didn’t cooperate.

    The Spokane woman asked to speak to her sister and a woman got on the line and mentioned the woman’s name, but that was about it. The woman wasn’t convinced that was her sister. She asked to talk to her some more to verify a few things, but the caller refused. She told the caller that they wouldn’t get any money unless she saw her sister. It was when the caller asked her to wire money to them, she realized it was a scam.

    We have to applaud this woman for being so tenacious about getting proof that this was actually her sister or not. In addition, she did the right things when confronted with a scam like this. She demanded verifiable proof and when she didn’t get it she stood up to the scammers.

    If you encounter this situation, there are also a few other things you can do. One is to ask the person who’s supposedly kidnapped a question that only they would know. Additionally, you can set up a safe word in advance. However, the first thing you should do, if you can, is try to contact the person they’ve supposedly kidnapped. In most if not all cases, you’ll find that the person is safe and sound.

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