When Buying a Home, Watch Out for This Scam


Doug Shadel
2 minutes

We get SOME scary calls. Take this one from Sally (not her real name), 56, who was finalizing a home purchase when she received an email from her escrow company instructing her where to wire the down payment. Every detail in the email was right, and the timing made sense, so she sent the $25,400 as instructed. But the wire didn’t go through. No problem, said their lawyer in a text; just deposit a cashier’s check into our bank account. Unknown to Sally, the instructions were from scammers. Her cash was stolen.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, visit AARP’s Scams & Fraud page

Sally was the victim of a business email compromise (BEC) scam, one of the leading cybercrimes in the U.S. today, says the FBI. It often occurs when scammers impersonate employees in a company to get other workers to send them sensitive client information. With that info in hand, they can use any number of techniques to scam the client.

Real estate companies have been particularly hard-hit. Between 2015 and 2017, there was an elevenfold increase in BEC scams targeting the industry, with losses of over $5 billion. The assault is nationwide. So, home buyers, be suspicious of any change in closing plans. Consult your real estate agent and bank if something doesn’t feel right.

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