Scammers target home buyers' closing costs

Email scheme can cost consumers thousands

SAN ANTONIO – Home buyers, beware. The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that scammers are working to trick people out of thousands of dollars in closing costs through an email phishing scheme.

According to the FTC, hackers get into the accounts of real estate professionals or consumers to find out when deals are set to close. They then send an email to the home buyer.

The email appears to be from the real estate agent, mortgage lender or title company. The fake email tells the consumer that there are last minute changes in the wiring instructions and that they should wire their closing costs to another account. The account belongs to the scammer.

"Locally, I think we have seen attempts," said Bob Jacobs, chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.

He urges consumers to be verify any financial requests with a phone call.

"If you're the buyer and you've been dealing with a realtor on either side, verify it with them that this is what I am supposed to be doing," he said.

He said SABOR encourages realtors and agents to make their clients aware of how the process really works.

Typically, closing costs are paid by cashier's check, although some buyers do wire funds if they are long-distance or paying a large sum in a cash deal.

The FTC urges consumers not to email financial information to anyone because it is not secure and  not to click on links in emails.

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