Beware wire transfer scam targeting home buyers - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Beware wire transfer scam targeting home buyers

(Source: WBRC video) (Source: WBRC video)
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Dustan Myrex saw nothing suspicious when he received an email that appeared to be from the closing attorney’s office concerning the wire transfer needed before he bought his house a couple of weeks ago.

It was a Wednesday morning and he had discussed the details surrounding the closing costs with the office the day before.

So when the new email stated “revised wiring instructions is (sic) attached, let me know when the wire is sent,” Myrex followed through.

Two days later as he was pulling into the parking lot of the law firm, he received a call from the bank’s fraud department saying something appeared wrong.

“Sure enough, the money had not appeared in the escrow account,” Myrex said.

In a word, he was “upset.” He had been targeted by a hacker.

“Happens all the time. Personally, I’m aware of 20 situations here in Birmingham where this has happened in the last six months or so,” Reli Title CEO Kent Stewart said.

In fact, Stewart called it an “epidemic.”

“This cyber fraud is scary and happening all over the country and right here in Birmingham,” Stewart said.

Stewart said it has become so common, he speaks often to people in the real estate industry, warning of the risk of this new form of stealing.

He said hackers find a way to hack into someone in the real estate industry, perhaps an agent or lender or even a title company. The hackers track communications between the individuals, flagging references to wire transfers, closing dates or any other word that may offer clues.

“They watch transactions. They know when the transaction is closing. Where, who is closing,” Stewart said.

That’s when the hackers act – sending what appears to be a legitimate email changing the wire transfer information to a fraudulent account.

Stewart said it can be a few thousand to a million dollars in some cases.

The real estate industry is responding and working to reduce the risks, but Stewart said consumers have one important thing to do.

“Do not wire any money based on an email,” he said.

Instead, Stewart advises independently verifying the contact information for the closing; calling and confirming the information in the email.

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