In a cruel new twist, scammers have found a way to steal homebuyers' down payments.
The new scam involves tricking a homebuyer into sending their down payment to an account the day before or the day of closing. When the homebuyers arrive at closing they find out that they wired their money to an off-shore account belonging to a con artist.
The scammer will spoof someone who is legitimately involved in the transaction, like a banker or a real estate agent. The criminal will steal their email address to make it look like the emails are coming from that person.
The con man will then give instructions for the down payment to be wired to a bank account number to complete the sale the next day.
The problem is that the bank account is off-shore in a place where there is no legal jurisdiction and the scammer is not anyone involved in the process.
How to avoid being scammed:
If you get an email from anyone telling you to wire money, call that person's office. Speak directly to them. Confirm the process with your real estate agent or real estate attorney depending on who is helping you close your sale.
NEVER wire money based on an email or an incoming phone call.
If the email or phone call sounds urgent ("Do this now or you're going to lose the house!"), it's a scam. If you have the house under contract the process is created to go through smoothly and no one should ever ask you to wire money to them.
Never wire money without confirming and reconfirming the account number and the process with everyone involved.
There are rarely any sudden changes in the plans for a closing. If your real estate agent said that you were to bring the money to the closing, they wouldn't send you an email the night before telling you to wire it somewhere!
Some homebuyers have lost six figures on these scams, even their life savings! Don't get scammed. Confirm, confirm, confirm!