The growing threat of wire fraud scams targeting real estate transactions is prompting the Utah Division of Real Estate to launch a statewide campaign in warning the public. A real estate email scam is trying to dupe unsuspecting buyers out of their down payment right before settlement.
The Utah Division of Real Estate has produced a public service announcement video that is airing on local television stations as well as a statewide billboard campaign through the end of August.
The email scam—affecting transactions across the country—targets real estate agents’ and title companies’ email accounts. Scammers learn when transactions are scheduled and, usually within 24 hours of a transaction closing, they’ll use the email account to send new wiring instructions to the buyer, seller, title, or escrow agent, lender, real estate agent, or broker. The new wiring instruction will have the funds directed to a bank account outside of the country. After the funds are transferred, they are usually quickly dispersed to multiple banks and quickly become untraceable and unrecoverable.
More than $149 million was lost by consumers nationwide in 2018 from this type of email real estate fraud, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report.
“All parties in a real estate transaction should be very wary of any last-minute changes over email,” says Jonathan Stewart, director of the Utah Division of Real Estate. “Once criminals gain access to your email account, they can make anything sound legitimate. We hope by educating consumers about this statewide email scam, we can prevent Utahns from becoming victims.”