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Today's homebuyers can unwittingly become targets of scams, as evidenced by a report today by NBC in which it describes how a couple was robbed of their life savings. Citing this as a mere sampling of what can happen, real estate experts say everyone shopping for homes need to stay vigilant.

The news report spoke with multiple homebuyers who fell victim to the same scheme: hackers, intercept emails and pose as agents, conning buyers into wiring or sending their down payments to the thieves' bank accounts. By the time these victims realize what just took place, the money, as well as the scammers, are long gone.

The story cites the example of a San Jose, CA, a grandmother whose rent was about to be doubled and decided she was to move from the San Francisco Bay Area. Focusing on moving to Ohio, where her grandchildren live and where housing is substantially cheaper, she found a new home for herself south of Cleveland with an asking price around $28,000 — not even a down payment on a property in much of California, but a typical asking price in the rural Midwest.

She offered slightly less to the listing agent and was elated that her price was accepted. She decided to pay cash for the property out of her retirement savings, thrilled to know she would at last live in her own home mortgage-free. Soon afterward, she received an email telling her where to wire her funds. She complied, transferring her $25,400 payment into the designated account. Just a few days later her life changed forever after her real estate agent told her to head to her bank ASAP. There, she found she had wired her money to a fraudulent account. The listing Realtor’s account had been hacked. The buyer was told to stop the transaction, and she did, thinking this nightmare was over. But it wasn’t.

After days of wrangling with her bank in California as well as the bank in which she deposited the funds, the buyer learned her money had already disappeared from the fraudsters' account, leaving her less than $250 in life savings.

The report cited Dave Walsh, Treasurer for the California Association of Realtors, who says the problem of real estate wire fraud is growing and hackers are now targeting virtually every homebuyer, seller, and agent to capture the huge sums of money changing hands.

"When you realize that’s the depth of the thieves’ efforts to get into — to breach these data firewalls — it’s endless," Walsh said. "There's bots everywhere now, and they're simply attacking any server, including the real estate professionals' servers, for any kind of data they can get.” The report goes on to say that using the information they get from those private servers; scammers then fabricate documents that trick mortgage brokers, title agents, real estate agents, and consumers into wiring money to the wrong place.

How to protect yourself? The California Association of Realtors says home buyers need to (1) call and verify everything before sending any money. This included your agent, the seller's agent, the escrow officer, and the title company. (2) Confirm account names and numbers. (3) Call everyone again immediately after the transfer.

The grandmother in question found herself fighting banks, brokers, and even police to no avail and decided to report her dilemma to local news sources.

Attorneys are now involved.

Source:, TBWS


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Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

This, unfortunately, is not a new issue. North Carolina this year came out with a form for buyers to sign off explaining how this fraud comes about and how to protect themselves. I always used to discuss it with clients (and still do), but now also review this form with my clients and have them sign off so they can't say no one warned them.

Jul 15, 2018 04:08 AM #1
Harry Norman, REALTORS® - Atlanta, GA
Associate Broker

Good morning 

Thank you for sharing your information with us

Have a great day


Jul 15, 2018 04:27 AM #2
Andy Brown-Climer School of Real Estate
The Climer School of Real Estate - Orlando, FL
The Best Real Estate School in Florida

The economy is good and fraud and scams are back. Keep up the great work informing us of issues such as this.

Jul 15, 2018 05:01 AM #3
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Chris Brown- Florida Home Loan Specialist | Certified Mortgage Planner,

This has been going for quite a while but see it escalating. We have our buyers and sellers sign wire fraud statements and go over the procedure of handling a wire and verifying with everyone when you are requested to wire any sum of money. Title companies are requesting a cashier's check the day before closing so they can verify the cashier's check! I'm glad the lady went to the local news...more needs to be shouted out to put a stop to this fraud scheme!

Jul 15, 2018 05:18 AM #4
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Chris- unfortunately, this has been going on for years. It's important for agents to go over with their clients what this fraud looks like and to reinforce the need for them to call their agent with any questions. 

Jul 15, 2018 03:19 PM #5
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