Homebuyers Beware: Scammers are looking to take your money

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) want all homebuyers to be wary of a new phishing scam designed to steal your down payment and closing costs.

Phishing is when scammers impersonate a legitimate business in an attempt to steal money or personal information. When targeting homebuyers, scammers will send emails posing as your real estate or settlement agent typically claiming that there has been a last minute change in the closing procedure and asking their victims to make a payment through a wire transfer to a fraudulent account.

These emails can be very convincing because the scammers will often hack your real estate agency’s accounts, or your own email account, to get the necessary information to pull off the ruse.

While Phishing Scams can be hard to spot, here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Be skeptical of any email requesting that you send money in connection with closing. Even if it’s from a familiar source, STOP.
  • Call your real estate or settlement agent to confirm the validity of any emails. Don’t use the phone numbers or links in the email; call them at the number you have in your records.
  • Never email any financial information.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  • If an email has a request for a wire transfer, ask your bank to help identify any red flags in the wiring instructions. These can include discrepancies between the account name and the name of the intended beneficiary (such as your real estate or settlement agent). Your bank may also be able to see if the account number has been identified in past consumer complaints.

 

If you’ve already sent money and are worried that you’ve been scammed:

  • Contact your bank or the money transfer company immediately upon discovering that funds have been transferred to the wrong account.
  • If you wired money through a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint line immediately
  • Report your experience to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center atgov. If your bank asks for a police report, you can give them a copy of this report. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can.
  • Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov – and to the organization impersonated in the email. You can also email the Anti-Phishing Working Group, which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, at reportphishing@apwg.org.
  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at gov/complaint.
  • Visit gov. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft; there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.

The FTC and the FBI have more information on protecting yourself from phishing scams and what to do if you are a victim.