Homebuyers Being Targeted by Money Transfer Scam

Pierluigi Paganini September 21, 2018

Money Transfer Scam – Scammers hack the victims’s email accounts, monitor conversations between the buyers and title agents, send instructions on where to wire the money.

A new homebuyer moves through a period of vulnerable transition as they invest in their future. This sensitive stage — a confusing flurry of representatives, documentation and planning — represents an attractive target for con artists with ill intentions. Some choose to capitalize on homebuyers’ ignorance.

The con in question is a money transfer scam with all the likeness of a typical transaction. Scammers hack the email accounts of their victims and monitor conversations between the buyers and title agents. Toward the close of the interaction, the scammers will send false instructions on where to wire the money.

After the wrongfully transferred money reaches the criminals behind the money transfer scam, they disappear, thousands of dollars wealthier. The practice is so whisper-quiet and challenging to catch that it’s given the FBI considerable trouble. For all intents and purposes, the scammers appear real.

Bryan O’Meara was hoping to expand his business with the addition of a parking lot for his new restaurant. He intended to wire upward of $1 million to the seller of the property but was unaware that his conversations were under surveillance by scammers. His business partner was equally unaware.

Fortunately for O’Meara, he didn’t follow through with the transaction — a decision that saved him an enormous sum of money. A loss of that caliber might have upended his business, and it’s a risk that many moving forward in real estate transactions should consider.

money transfer scam

Image by Soumil Kumar

FBI Involvement

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered the American public advice on how to better safeguard their money from scammers and hackers. After reporting $5 million in loss from Utah residents in 2017, every citizen is encouraged to take preventive measures to protect themselves from scams.

These measures include a frequent change in passwords, using mismatched and uncommon characters to avoid predictability. They also include a final follow-up with your partner or agent to confirm the wiring instructions are correct. Finally, in a worst-case scenario, people should contact their bank for immediate recall.

It’s an unfortunate truth that, even in the event of a recall, the victim loses most of their stolen money. Scammers will often bounce-wire the money through several international accounts at a high pace, blurring the trail that’s left behind in the event their target tries to reverse their transaction.

No security is 100 percent reliable. Even in following all the steps and taking every precaution, scammers and hackers will always innovate new techniques to steal money from their unwitting victims.

Protecting Home Purchases

While the FBI is a helpful resource when combating scammers, homebuyers are encouraged to take additional measures before they purchase their property of interest. For many, changing a password and making a phone call will not be enough. They should also consider the following advice.

In the final stages of communication between an individual and a company, a comparison of early emails and those received later can reveal differences. These differences indicate a scammer has entered the conversation under the guise of a professional. Verification through multiple channels is the safest route.

A scammer will also place a high amount of pressure on a homebuyer to wire their money. Homebuyers in the final stages of transfer are advised to look closely at the information exchanged between them and the vendor to ensure its validity. A lax attitude toward detail can leave a person open to attack.

However, these innocent people don’t have to fall into the same old traps. Everyone should commit themselves to an awareness of common scamming techniques and illegal practices. Before purchasing a home, potential buyers would benefit by educating themselves about the latest scams in circulation by criminals.

Assessing the Danger

According to a 2017 report by the FBI, almost $1 billion was diverted or nearly diverted from real estate transactions — up by a significant margin from the year prior. This enormous sum of money speaks to the severity of the problem and its relevance to homebuyers today.

As they work through the final stages of a real estate transaction, buyers must remain diligent. A lack of interest in the proceedings can spell the difference between money lost and money saved. With a transaction as important as property exchange, anything less than total attention is inviting trouble.

It’s only through awareness and caution that citizens can protect themselves and their loved ones from the dangers of fraudulent activity.

About the author

Kayla Matthews is a technology and cybersecurity writer, and the owner of ProductivityBytes.com. To learn more about Kayla and her recent projects, visit her About Me page.



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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Money Transfer Scam, cybercrime)

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