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Wire fraud targeting SA home buyers on the rise

REAL ESTATE SCAM. April.jpg

A money making scheme that's crushing real estate deals and wiping out homeowners' life savings is making is sweeping through San Antonio.

"Our industry estimates that we see maybe a hundred attempts across the state," said Vice President of Independence Title, Kara McGregor.

The closing day scam is so prevalent, title companies citywide are holding training sessions for realtors working to increase their awareness, but title companies know buyers and sellers are often the weak link.

"Cyber criminals look for a weak chain of communication, an unsecured email account," McGregor said. "They will monitor the communication for a while to get a sense of what's happening."

"An individual who is not a party to a transaction has individuals who are wiring money from bank account to bank account ultimately deceive them into wiring money into a different bank account," said Vice President of Underwriting Counsel for First National Title, Sean Everest.

Perpetrators begin sending their own instructions, deceiving emails that appear to be coming from the bank or title company involved in the transaction.

"Then when the transaction closes and funds, those funds are wired into a completely different bank account," Everest said.

The cyber criminals are often very specific about the individuals they target.

"It's more specific, it's not buckshot, it's sniper," McGregor.

McGregor it's a sophisticated operation where they often copy company logos, change email addresses by only one letter, and in some cases even warn about the type of fraud they are committing in the email.

Most title companies use encrypted email to protect their buyers and sellers information.

"If it's something like wiring instructions and it's not in an encrypted email, then you should call and confirm with the party that sent the email," Everest said.

He also added, it's uncommon to change wiring instructions late in the game, so if there is any doubt, you can and should call your title company to confirm the origin of the email.

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