A new "highly sophisticated" cyber scam is targeting homeowners and duping them out of thousands, sometimes their entire life savings.
The scam involves hackers getting into your email and monitoring it, then jumping at the chance when they see that you're about to send money to someone.
Here's how it works:
- After seeing that you're about to send money, the hackers send you a spoof email, pretending to be the other party.
- They then give you new wire instructions.
- After you follow those instructions, your money goes into the hackers' account, where they quickly withdraw it.
The FBI says complaints about this scam have skyrocketed by 480 percent, with duped homebuyers losing millions. "It's an area that's growing and causing us more and more concern," said Jeffrey Van Nest, who's with the FBI.
Brian Weingarten is one of the unfortunate homeowners who fell prey to the scam. A day before closing on his new house, Weingarten got an email from someone claiming to be his escrow agent and giving new wire instructions for his down payment.
Weingarten sent the money - $50,000 - but it was only until the next morning that he realized something was terribly wrong.
"At that point I just realized I lost$50,000, I lost the house, I just lost everything and I've got to call my wife and tell her," Weingarten said.
Weingarten said he wants people to learn from his experience, so here's what you need to do to avoid getting duped:
- If you do anything through email, watch for red flags.
- Poor grammar and spelling errors could indicate someone is trying to trick you.
- Before sending money, call your personal contact to be sure that the email is legitimate.
Weingarten had to borrow money to save his family's dream home, but he caught a break when Chase, the bank where he wired the money, returned $35,000 of the $50,000 lost. The bank didn't explain its decision, but did say it was "pleased to resolve the issue."
However, you may not be as lucky as Weingarten, so make sure to follow our tips so that the next time you try to buy your dream home, the transaction doesn't turn into a nightmare.