Just when we thought we had heard it all, your BBB® received an alert from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) about a mortgage closing costs phishing scam that just surfaced. The scam begins with scammers hacking into consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions.
Once the scammer has the closing dates, he/she sends an email to the buyer claiming to be the real estate agent or a title company representative. The phony email informs the buyer that the wiring instructions have changed at the last minute and tells the buyer to wire the closing costs to a different account which belongs to the scammer. Once the buyer wires the money to the scammer’s account, the buyer’s entire bank account could be wiped out with little chance of recovering the money.
In the alert the FTC tells consumers, “If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that.”
Tom Salomone, NAR president, stated, “We’re working with the Federal Trade Commission to shine a bright light on that criminal activity and help protect prospective homeowners. Buyers should be wary of sending financial information over email, downloading attachments, or responding to email requests to wire money in a real estate transaction.”
In the alert, the FTC shared the following tips for consumers to avoid becoming a victim of phishing scams such as this one:
*Do not email financial information. It’s not secure.
*If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the “s” stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
*Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
*Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.