A Florida family is out $77,000, the apparent victims of a scam in a real estate transaction. The extended family – a woman and her boyfriend, her mother, sister and brother-in-law – pooled their money to buy a home in Jensen Beach.
"It was just what we were looking for," the brother-in-law told a local television station.
Their offer was accepted and the purchase process seemed easy enough until they sat down at the closing table with their attorney, who said it was time to pay the $77,000 in closing costs.
They knew they owed that money as part of the purchase agreement. So what was the problem? They already paid it.
They wired money, per the instructions received in emails purportedly from their attorney's office. Their attorney never sent the emails, and the family members apparently were the victims of a sophisticated hack.
At first look, the emails appear legitimate. When examined more closely, the scam beaome apparent.
In recent years, the FBI has warned that hackers have infiltrated the real estate industry and monitor emails to determine when transactions are near closing. Then, the scammers move in and ask for the money.
In fact, the FBI said that in 2018, about 20,000 Americans were affected by a similar scam and lost nearly $1.3 billion as a result.
In this Florida case, the family was able to put together the money to close on their dream home, but not everyone is as fortunate. They don't anticipate recouping their lost money.
They alsi want home buyers to know they should take the extra step of calling their attorneys or anyone who asks for money to be sent electronically in real estate transactions. In this case, a call to their attorney would have revealed that this request wasn't legitimate and saved them thousands of dollars.