FBI Reports Home Closing Wire Fraud Is Spiking

There is explosive growth in wire fraud and it is coming from the most unlikely places – home closings.

The FBI is reporting an explosive increase in wire related fraud where hackers infiltrate real estate agents email accounts, send fake emails and convince homebuyers to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars to their accounts with the guise that it is closing funds.

The scam is so bad that the FBI is raising the warning bell and putting out an all points bulletin to make sure that homeowners aren’t scammed by the elaborate con.

In 2016, the FBI reported only $19 million in this type of wire fraud, but that has skyrocketed to over $1 Billion in reported losses through the first 9 months of 2017.

How the Scam Works

Imagine getting ready to close on your first home.  It’s a beauty.  It’s in the right neighborhood. It’s close to restaurants and you can even walk to get coffee in the morning.  It was expensive, but you saved for years to buy it.  If all goes well you will close in 2 days and move into your dream home.

The day before closing you get an email from your real estate agent.  They send you wiring instructions and request that you send in $200,000 from your bank account to the bank and include the routing number.

The email might have appeared legitimate but it was all part of a sophisticated hacking scam that targets real estate agents.

Hackers will find real estate agent emails on the internet or their websites. They will then send carefully disguised emails that contain harmful links in them.  If the real estate agent opens the link accidentally, it will install malware on their computer which gives the hackers full access to their computer.

The hackers will then monitor the agent’s emails and look for homes that are about to close. Right before the home closes, the hacker sends an email (from the real estate agents email) to the buyer instructing them to send a wire transfer to a fraudulent account.

Thanks for reading and watch out for those fraudsters!

Frank McKenna is the Chief Fraud Strategist for PointPredictive and a Fraud Consultant based in San Diego California