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Rip-Off Alert: Cyber scammers stepping up game in real estate fraud

A money-making scheme is crushing real estate deals and wiping out homeowners' life savings in a matter of seconds. (KSNV)

A money-making scheme is crushing real estate deals and wiping out homeowners' life savings in a matter of seconds.

It’s so prevalent in San Antonio that title companies citywide are holding training sessions for Realtors working to increase their awareness.

Cyber criminals look for a weak chain of communication, an unsecured email account. They will monitor the communication for a while to get a sense of what’s happening.

“An individual who is not a party to a transaction has individuals who are wiring money from bank account to bank account, ultimately deceive them into wiring money into a different bank account,” said Sean Everest, vice president and underwriting counsel for First National Title.

Perpetrators begin sending their own instructions — deceiving emails — that appear to be coming from the bank or title company involved in the transaction.

When the transaction closes and funds, those funds are wired into a completely different bank account.

The cyber criminals are very specific about the people they pursue.

One official says the criminals are crafty: copying company logos, changing email addresses by only one letter and — in some cases — even warning about the type of fraud they are committing.

“It said, ‘Congratulations on your upcoming closing. Here are your wiring instructions.’ It went on to say, ‘As you know, incidents of wire fraud are increasingly common. Please call you escrow officer at this number to verify your wiring instructions,” Everest said.

Everest says their company uses encrypted email to protect buyer’s and seller’s information.

Other tell-tale signs: an email is not authentic and errors with grammar. If asked to change wiring instructions at the very last minute? Watch out, that's not common.

When in doubt, call to confirm exactly what you're supposed to do. It's uncommon to change wiring instructions late in the game.

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