Picture this: It’s the eve of your real estate closing. Probably the biggest transaction of your life. Surely a significant sum of money is involved. You need to wire funds. Perhaps you cannot attend the closing, and so your agent is closing for you under a power of attorney. Or perhaps you have money in your account and must wire it to your lawyer or an escrow agent. You’ve been given wire instructions. That morning, you get a seemingly legit confirming email from your lawyer. “Please wire funds to Account 123…”
The email address is correct. The signature line is in order. The email confirms the closing at Smith, Jones and Friends at 2 p.m. at 666 Main St., Anywhere, USA. The time and instructions all seem right. You wire the funds. You wire a lot of money. You’ve just wired the balance of your purchase price … to a thief!
This is an email phishing scam and it happened at a colleague’s closing here in NYC recently. (See more examples of phishing scams).
Somehow, an email seemingly sent from this person’s lawyer was actually from an email scammer. The details around how this happened are not known, but what is known is that funds were sent and then promptly transferred overseas and out of reach.
Yes, this buyer was royally scammed. Think about if this happened to you. Do you have an extra boatload of money hanging around and available to close your deal? You would be screwed, and no doubt your seller would not be too happy, either.
So a word of warning for when you’re wiring large amounts: Pick up a phone, speak to the person to whom you are wiring funds, and verbally confirm the wire instructions — including the payee bank and account number. Only once you’ve done that should you wire the purchase funds.
And tell them I told you so.
Hey, why not like StreetEasy on Facebook and follow @streeteasy on Instagram?