Buying Or Selling A Home? Beware Of Emails Claiming To Be From Your Realtor: Learn About Phishing Scams

A new phishing scam targets home buyers and tries to fleece them out of their down payment and closing costs.

In the scam, cybercriminals pose as the victim's real estate agent. They have previously obtained the victim's closing date, and they send an email claiming that there is a last-minute change in the closing details. They tell the victim to wire money for the down payment and closing costs to a different account.

The best way to spot this scam is by paying attention to the assertion that there is a "last minute change" and the request for wired funds. Katie Pelton "Voice of the consumer: Phishing scam targets new home buyers," gazette.com (Aug. 13, 2017).


Commentary and Checklist

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), you can protect yourself from this and other phishing scams by never emailing any financial information. Generally, legitimate organizations will not ask you for wire transfers over email.

Instead of replying to a suspicious email, call your real estate agent, or whomever the email claims to be from, directly, using the person’s listed phone number, not the one contained in the email.

Never open any attachments, click on any links, or download any files contained in a suspicious email. They could contain malware designed to steal your personal information. Instead of clicking on a link, look up the organization’s legitimate email address and type that into your browser.

Keep your operating system and security software up-to-date. Confirm that a website is secure before divulging any personal information.

If you receive a request to wire money, call your bank and ask them if it sees any red flags that suggest it could be a scam, such a difference in the account name and where the money is going. If you have already sent a wire transfer that you are unsure about, immediately contact your bank or the company that processed the transfer.

If you receive a phishing email, report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at www.ic3.gov. If you fell victim to identity theft, report it and follow the steps to recover your identity at www.identitytheft.gov.

Here are some signs your identity may have been stolen:

  • Unauthorized charges appear on credit or bank accounts.
  • Being denied a line of credit for a poor credit rating, despite a history of good credit
  • Failing to receive credit card or bank statements in the mail as expected
  • Being contacted by creditors about money owed for items you or your employer did not purchase
  • Failing to receive new or renewed credit cards in the mail
  • Merchants refuse to honor checks.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you did not receive.
  • A health plan rejects a claim because you have reached your spending limit.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return or refund request was filed in your or your employer's name.
  • An organization you do business with, or have an account with, notifies you that a data breach compromised your, or your employer's, information.
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