Fraudsters recently scammed a Florida couple out of $46,000 in a title dispute. The couple lost the money when they wired the funds as allegedly instructed by their real estate agent. Unfortunately, the real estate agent’s account had been hacked and the hackers were able to divert to the funds.
Instead of going towards the home purchase, the fraudsters made off with the funds.
Such misfortune is not uncommon. Home buyers are wise to tread carefully when purchasing a home in Florida. Some proactive steps that can help reduce the risk of a similar problem include:
- Communication. Do not wire funds without direct contact with the company. In this case, the real estate agent encouraged the couple to wire the funds. The agent did so without contacting the alleged title company. Law enforcement officers working this case have stated that the problem could have been avoided by verifying the information before moving forward with the transaction.
- Common sense. Question any last-minute changes. Fraudsters will often send an email just before the scheduled closing informing home buyers that there has been a change. The email will include information on a need to transfer money prior to the closing. It is wise to call and confirm this information before taking action.
Part of the reason these schemes are so successful is the importance of a clear title during a real estate transaction. Without a clear title, a homeowner can have difficulties receiving full ownership of the property at the closing. Fraudsters will use this fear to encourage home buyers to move forward with the transfer as quickly as possible. Although prompt action may be required, a simple phone call can help to better ensure the money gets to the right location.
In this case, the couple has filed suit against the real estate agent and the real estate company in an attempt to recoup the funds.