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Real estate scam

Scammers impersonate employees at title companies or other businesses supporting the buying and selling of property because these companies typically use wire transfers to move large sums of money and customers commonly have funds readily available.

A scammer typically gains access to a title company’s or realtor’s email account and searches for home purchases or refinances scheduled for settlement. They will then create a fake email address that closely resembles the real thing, such as john.doe.titlecompanyname@gmail.com.

With access to the real email account, scammers can observe the formatting of previous email exchanges and craft a phishing email that looks very authentic, down to the email signature and company logo. Using this genuine-looking email, the scammer is able to impersonate a title company employee and provide fraudulent wiring instructions to the customer, funneling the money directly into their own bank account.

Learn how to protect yourself from this scam.

What you can do
If you haven’t wired funds: 

  • Before wiring any funds, always confirm instructions with your mortgage consultant or title representative by calling a phone number you trust. Do not call a number from an email if you haven’t used it before, as fraudulent emails often contain fake phone numbers.
  • Be highly suspicious of any correspondence stating your wiring instructions have changed. Call your representative directly if you receive this type of communication.

If you have wired funds and realize it was a fraudulent request:

  • If you wired money through your bank, request a wire recall immediately. 
  • If you used a money transfer service, call the company’s complaint line right away. 
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as soon as possible and provide all of the incident details. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to the FBI.