real estate

Beware Closing Cost Scams

Home buyers are being tricked into wiring their money to crooks.

You've found your dream house and made a winning offer on it. Now all that's left is a transfer of funds to get you in the door. That's when the closing-cost scammers strike.

Posing as real estate or settlement agents, these con artists swindled home buyers out of nearly $1 billion last year, up from $19 million in 2016, the FBI says. The scheme works like this: Thieves hack into a real estate professional's e-mail account to track upcoming transactions. When a deal's closing date nears, they send the home buyer an e-mail that appears to come from the real estate agent or title company that's handling the closing. The e-mail directs the home buyer to wire funds for the closing costs and the down payment to a fraudulent account.

To protect yourself from this scam, don't trust e-mails containing money-wiring instructions. Don't click on links or call phone numbers provided in such e-mails, and don't share your financial information with the sender.

Talk to your real estate or settlement agent about the closing process and wire-transfer protocols. Once you've made the transfer, confirm that the funds were received. If you're victimized, catching problems quickly increases your chances of getting the money back.

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