If you want the short version of this article, here it is:
Never ever wire money for your closing without independently confirming the phone number and calling the person or company to whom you are sending the money.
There are crooks who are preying on people who are purchasing homes.
Here’s what it looks like:
The scammers hack the email account of your real estate agent or closing agent. They phish the account looking for information regarding the closing. Once they identify the buyer and the closing agent, they fabricate an email and send it to the buyer.
The very-legitimate-looking email appears to be from the closing agent and says there has been a change in the instructions for wiring the down payment and closing costs due from the buyer.
If the buyer follows the “new” directions without checking the legitimacy of the email, the money is wired to the scammer’s account and the buyer is, well, screwed.
The money is gone and nearly never recoverable. Without that money, it’s impossible to close on the house. If the funds came from the sale of their most recent home and represent all or nearly all of the buyer’s savings, it’s highly probable the buyer will be, literally, homeless and forced to seek out a rental property.
What to do to prevent being a victim of this scam:
Anytime you receive wiring instructions, whether via email (most likely), phone or text, look up the phone number of your closing agent. In some states, this is your closing attorney. In others, it’s the escrow company. Do not call the number provided in the message, because you could be calling the scammer. Find the number yourself and call to confirm the information for the account where you should send the money.
Finally, call the local authorities or State Attorney General to report the crime.
With so much at stake, it is well worth the time it takes to double check that your money is going where you intend it to.