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New Scams Devastating Lives and Crushing Dreams

Ever wonder what happens at the RE/MAX weekly Office Meetings? The majority of my time is networking property listings. After networking, we discuss crimes occurring right within our client’s email inbox. The term for this crime is Wire Fraud however the reality is far more insidious. Wire Fraud is stealing dreams while ruining lives. As I perused the latest Real Estate Industry news from Inman the headlines just jumped off the page.

Barbara Corcoran loses almost $400K in phishing scam

The ‘Shark Tank’ star and founder of The Corcoran Group lost the money after approving a fraudulent money transfer. She’s just the latest victim in a growing trend
By Jim Dalrymple II

Image by: Taylor Hill and Getty Images

….In Corcoran’s case, she told People that the incident began when her bookkeeper received an emailed invoice “approving the payment for a real estate renovation.” Corcoran said the invoice appeared to have come from her assistant, and added that there was “no reason to be suspicious as I invest in a lot of real estate.”
“The money was wired to the scammer yesterday and my bookkeeper copied my assistant, who was shocked to see her name on the correspondence,” Corcoran told People Wednesday. “The detail that no one caught was that my assistant’s email address was misspelled by one letter, making it the fake email address set up by the scammers.”
Corcoran added that the scammer has now disappeared, and “I won’t be getting the money back.”
“I lost the $388,700 as a result of a fake email chain sent to my company,” she also said.

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And even more heart wrenching was this headline:

Young family loses life savings of $775K in escrow wire fraud scam

Kevin and Nicole Noar wired over the money for their dream house before realizing that someone had hacked their escrow information
By Veronika Bondarenko

Kevin, Nicole and Declan Noar Image by: GoFundMe

A couple with a one-year-old son are urging homebuyers to exercise caution after losing nearly $800,000 to a complicated escrow scam.
Kevin Noar, a chef, and Nicole Mercantini, a nurse at UC San Diego, waited until Valentine’s Day to put down $774,631 on their dream house in Carlsbad, California. They had, after months of looking with a trusted agent, found a home in which they wanted to live with their one-year-old son Deklan.
On that day, Noar and Mercantini had received an email asking them to wire their funds into escrow. They had received another email from their escrow company, Power Escrow, a few days earlier and all their personal and bank account information lined up. Everything in the second email matched their closing statement.
The couple had confirmed the transfer with the bank and arranged for a notary. It was only a few days after transferring the money that the couple realized that they had underpaid by a small amount and contacted the company to correct it. As they would later discover, a hacker had somehow gained access to their information and sent out a fake email — all the money had gone to an unidentified receiver.

After contacting the FBI, Noar and Mercantini were able to find out that the money had gone from California to Texas then to Singapore. Once there, it was broken down into bitcoin and is now almost impossible to trace.

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Homebuyer scammed out of fortune hired by title company

Aaron Cole lost his entire downpayment to scammers, but a deal with his title company will allow him and and his family to move into their new home just in time for Christmas
By: Jim Dalrymple II

Aaron Cole and his daughter Lyvia, son Owen, and wife Sarah. Credit: Aaron Cole

 

Nothing seemed amiss when Aaron Cole, 30, received an email with instructions for wiring the $122,850 down-payment for his new home. So the husband and father of two young children followed those instructions — only finding out days later that he had been fooled into sending all of his money to scammers.

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In Conclusion

The lesson is that PERSONAL connections are the key. I will always CAUTION you to have direct phone conversation or in-person CONFIRMATION about all wires. Real Estate is still a very personal transaction. This is one area where e-communications are convenient but are not to be trusted and require scrutiny of all details. Every time. I’m here for my clients, friends and their referrals.