ROUND ROCK, Texas — Closing on a new home can be exciting, but the Round Rock Police Department is warning people about scammers swindling homebuyers out of mortgage down payments.
"Unfortunately, it's happened multiple times in Round Rock, many times in Central Texas, and it appears to be a trend that's going nationwide," said Round Rock Police Detective Brian Neveu.
Neveu said mortgage wire transfer scammers are using phishing emails or hacking the emails of mortgage lenders and real estate agents, impersonating them near closing time and sending fraudulent emails that say they need the down payment earlier than planned.
"It's very nefarious, honestly," said Neveu. "You're seeing all the names that you know of the real estate agent, the title company, so you wire the money and you think it was a legitimate thing. You're probably feeling really good, unfortunately, at this point."
It's not just the right agent and title company listed in these scam emails. The scammers mention the location of the home you're buying, the down payment amount and your original closing date. Nevue said these criminals make it look legit.
"There's been instances of over $100,000 that have been sent," said Neveu. "There's been instances of $80,000, or has been all over the spectrum."
According to the FBI, these sophisticated mortgage scams often include crime organizations and untraceable offshore accounts, making the funds nearly impossible to recoup.
In some cases, Round Rock police got the money back. But, in other cases, their life savings were snatched away.
So, if you become a victim of this scam, Neveu said to call your bank or credit union ASAP so they can try to stop the transfer.
"So, depending on the time frame of that, there definitely is a success rate of retrieving that money before the scammer ever gets it," said Neveu. "But, yet again, that's where I go back to the immediacy. The faster you report it, the higher the likelihood of recovering the money."
Once talking to your banker, file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Center.
Realtor Rosie Hayer said to prevent this from happening, never wire money without talking to your professional Realtor or the title company.
Always use the number you already have and not what's on the questionable email.
"Never email your financial information through regular emails," said Hayer.
Also, double check that incoming emails have legitimate addresses, and watch for obvious grammatical errors and excessive urgency.
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