Central Ohio Home Buyers, Beware of Closing Scams! | Columbus Ohio Real Estate | Buyer's Resource Realty Services

Central Ohio Home Buyers, Beware of Closing Scams!

central ohio home buying tipsThe FBI warns that they are seeing an increase in wire transfer fraud schemes targeting Ohio home buyers. These schemes involve hijacked email accounts, which are then used to send fraudulent closing instructions to home buyers.

According to the FBI, at least two central Ohio title companies have fallen victim to wire fraud in the past several weeks, resulting in a combined loss of over $300,000. In recent months, dozens of fraud attempts have been made against Ohio consumers and title companies.

These scams are international in scope, and have affected people around the country. The schemes work like this: hackers break into an email account belonging to a real estate agent or title company representative. The hackers monitor email traffic, sometimes for weeks or even months, to identify the parties involved in the real estate transaction.

Once inside the communication loop, hackers discover closing dates, down payment amounts and settlement costs. Typically, hackers are seeking transactions that involve a large amount of cash. Right before the closing, the hackers will send fake, last-minute instructions through the hijacked email, telling buyers that they must wire all funds to a specific account. The money then disappears, unknowing to the sender, into an offshore account that belongs to the hackers.

Unlike the poor English usage found in other email scams, these messages look legitimate. This is because the hackers are studying email threads, and emulating an actual party in the transaction when they pounce. They even replicate logos and other identifying marks to make the email appear genuine.

The Federal Trade Commission offers several bits of advice for avoiding closing scams. We’re sharing them below, and including tips of our own!

If you receive an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email should never be used to send financial information, passwords or account data.

Beware of following “click-though” links in an email, especially when they lead to a page requesting financial information. It’s better to look up the actual URL for the website and type it into your web browser.

If you’re using an online form, or any website that requires financial information, verify that the site is secure. Make sure the URL begins with the prefix of https. (the “s” stands for secure).

If you receive an email attachment you were not expecting, even if you know the sender, be careful about opening it. Attachments can contain viruses and malware.

Don’t be shy about calling your agent, title company or lender to verify the authenticity of the information you are receiving! In fact: always call by telephone to confirm any money instructions received via email! A little caution could save you thousands of dollars.

Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.

If you receive a “phishing” email, report it to the FTC. If you are a victim of fraud and you have suffered financial losses, report it the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

We encourage you to share this blog post with family, friends, and industry professionals. By staying informed and alert, we can thwart the efforts of these hackers!

As your Exclusive Buyer’s Broker, we serve your best interests at all times! Unlike real estate agents and brokerages who represent sellers, as an Exclusive Buyer’s Broker, we only represent you, the buyer, getting you the best price and terms with no conflict of interest at all times.

Understanding this distinction could literally save you thousands of dollars not only on the purchase price and terms, but also on seller concessions and home inspection issues, whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an experienced homeowner!

Contact us with your home buying questions! Remember, we are with you every step of the way…all the way home!

Andrew Show
Broker, CEBA, CEBA-M, CNE, CSP, ABR-M, e-PRO, GREEN
Buyer’s Resource Realty Services
Serving Metro Columbus, Ohio with Exclusive Buyer’s Agents
7100 North High Street, Suite 204, Worthington, Ohio 43085
614-888-4110 | 888-888-4110 Toll Free | 614-839-4110 Fax

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