If you’ve ever bought a home you know how frustrating it is to deal with the builder(if new construction), seller, mortgage company, bank, etc. You have your closing date set and you are more than excited, frustrated, or tired of the entire process. You are ready for the movers to pack your things and become a new homeowner!
Imagine getting an email from someone who appears to be your closing agent a day before your closing date, telling you to wire your closing funds immediately so that your closing won’t be delayed? Your initial reaction could be, “oh my God, I don’t want my closing to be delayed. I’m ready to move into my new home.” You acquire the instructions to wire the funds and then you click confirm. But not so fast!
I received an email a day prior to my closing date that read, (EXACT WORDS FROM EMAIL)
You need to have the CASH TO CLOSE funds wire to our trust account today to avoid closing delay so that funds can clear in our account on time for closing, I will send the wire instructions once you have acknowledge the receipt of this email, i will be busy with limited access to my phone you can send me an email if you need anything else.
I’m resilient and I worked hard for my down-payment and I wasn’t releasing it without a fight. I responded to the email and told them that I won’t be wiring them anything and I will bring a cashier’s check to closing. The scammer’s response:
Please note that if closing funds are received via a cashier check closing will be delayed pending clearance of funds so you are advice to wire funds to our trust account to avoid closing delay so that funds can clear in our account on time for closing, Please advice if you can take care of the wire now so i can forward you our wiring instructions.
I noticed two things about the email, it was written in horrible grammar and punctuation, and I also observed the email address. I remembered my closing agent’s email address and it wasn’t the same as the email address that was sent. So I forwarded the email to my mortgage lender and notified the closing agent that someone was using her name to get me to wire my down-payment. The closing agent notified me immediately when I emailed her, but my mortgage lender NEVER responded to my email of the fraudulent scam. When I didn’t receive a response from my mortgage lender I thought to myself, “who would know that I’m closing tomorrow besides the lender and closing agent? Is the mortgage lender in on this scam since they NEVER responded to the wire fraud email?” Until this day, the lender still hasn’t responded.
I count my lucky stars daily on how grateful I am that I didn’t fall for the wire fraud scam. My experience in IT taught me how to look at email addresses if something seems odd. I was able to recognize it, but it breaks my heart to read stories of people who did lose their money and dream homes by this scam that is swept under the real estate business rug.
Lenders and closing agents are not doing enough to communicate with buyers on wire fraud scams. If my lender/closing agent would have told me that they will only accept cashier’s checks and do not wire any funds, this entire ‘scam’ would have been recognized immediately. But instead, it was me that told my loan officer that I wouldn’t be wiring any funds and that I will bring a cashier’s check to closing. This is what alerted me as well, because I had already told them my method of payment and wondered why they was asking me to wire the funds. I don’t believe in wiring money, especially, large amounts.
My message to anyone that’s closing on a home soon, the safest way to protect yourself from these scammers is to be aware that it can happen to YOU because it happened to me and many others. Communicate with your lender/closing agent and let them know that you will bring your down-payment, closing costs via cashier’s check, money order, or another safer medium to process the transaction. These scammers are out for blood and they don’t care how hard you’ve saved or worked for your money to buy your dream home. It could all be taken away in a matter of seconds. Your hard earned money is wired to an offshore account and many times it’s not traceable. It is a lose-lose situation for you. You lose your money and home. It is devastating, but it’s REAL. Don’t let your dream become a nightmare. Protect yourself from real estate wire fraud.