Hackers stealing down payments and deposits from home buyers via fake emails and phone numbers

FBI say the scam is getting much worse

TAMPA, Fla. - Imagine losing all your savings in one quick swoop. It is happening more frequently. Home buyers are falling victim to hackers, and many of them are still waiting to get their money back, which may not happen. 

Buying a home is an experience, especially if it is your first. You may want to get on social media and tell the world the house is yours, but title experts says do not do that. They say posts on Facebook or Instagram can be used by crooks trying to steal your deposit or down payment.

The FBI says scammers are tricking people intro wiring money. Already crooks diverted nearly $1 billion dollars this year so far. Last year the number was only $19 million.

Joellyn Robles with Hillsborough Title says the crooks' phishing technology is getting more sophisticated, making it harder to spot.

The scam typically comes via an email disguised as coming from your title agent instructing you to wire funds to close the deal. They take the money and vanish. Robles says they had five attempts in the past last week.

"We are very proactive in sending information via encrypted format as well as utilizing a collaborative portal that allows us to communicate information through a secure website," said Robles.

Here are three ways to protect yourself: 

  • Never do anything online until you have confirmed the request through your agent in person or over the phone. 
  • Check you are calling the actual number for the title agency and not a number found inside the email because it may be wrong.
  • If the email comes from a free account like Gmail or Hotmail be extra careful and do not open any links

The FBI continuously updates its list of internet-related fraud and scams. You can find out their recommendations on how to avoid becoming a victim by clicking here.

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