Real estate agency warns of wire fraud scam, offers tips to protect yourself – WLWT Cincinnati

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Scammers are targeting would-be homeowners at levels real estate agents in Ohio say they have not seen before.
The scams, carried out through wire fraud, are also getting more convincing, and people are losing tens of thousands of dollars when they fall victim.
Peter Chabris is the CEO of The Chabris Group with Keller Williams Seven Hills Realty.
“It’s almost become trendy with the bad guys to get involved with wire fraud. We’re seeing more and more attempts, and those attempts are getting more and more savvy,” Chabris said. “We first saw it start to happen about 18 months ago, and it sort of built in momentum. In the past nine months, it’s really picked up.”
Chabris does not know the reason behind the increase but said his company has changed its tactics, putting extra attention into warning clients about possible scams.
“As real estate agents and as title company owners, what we’re doing is making sure the consumer understands the risk that’s out there,” he said.
Every client now reviews and signs a disclosure form that warns of fake emails that can look very similar to your lender’s, realtors or title agencies.
“Bad guys are imitating real estate agents or title companies or both within one transaction,” Chabris said.
WLWT recently introduced you to a family that fell victim. Maverick Sun, a Navy veteran, was excited to put down roots in Mason with his wife Emily and their three daughters.
The day he was set to receive wiring instructions for his down payment, he received an email from a scammer posing as the title company. It looked professional and legitimate.
Sun called the title company to let them know he received an email with title instructions, and the company gave the OK for him to wire his money.
“We tried to call. We followed the protocol,” he said.
By the time anyone realized the email and the title instructions were fraudulent, Sun had already sent $160,0000. Six months later, his family still does not have their money back.
“The timing was just perfect, and we were just like, ‘Wow, could that happen?'” he said.
Chabris’ agency was recently working with a seller and the couple purchasing the home got duped.
“The buyer wired the funds to a bad actor instead of to the title company. It was roughly $40,000, which was their down payment on the property,” he said.
Scammers have also targeted their clients, even duplicating email signatures of real estate agents and sending convincing reasons not to call the office, like, “I’m in a closing meeting now with very limited access to my phone.”
The agency offered several tips to homebuyers: Pay close attention to the email address contacting you. Never give account information over the phone or email. If you receive wire instructions, always call to verify. Do not assume a phone number you are given is accurate. Do a Google search to verify the business’ number and call that number before communicating with anyone further.
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