Last-minute changes before closing could signal a big problem

You spent weeks or even months looking for a new home. After finding the right place and having your offer accepted, you spent more time waiting patiently for closing while working with your real estate agent and title company to make sure all your ducks are in a row.19196907 - hacker typing on a laptop with binary code in background

At the last minute, an email arrives from someone you trust who has been involved in all or most of the process, and they’re asking you to wire the money you owe at closing to a bank account. You would be wise to hold up, make a phone call to your agent (not an email) and verify all the specifics one last time or your dream of buying that new place might end with a thief robbing you.

Unfortunately, plenty of prospective home buyers have had their new homes ripped out from under them in recent months by crooks who hack into email accounts of real estate agents or title company officials. Those criminals wait for closing to arrive and send an email from the hacked account to parties involved in the transaction instructing them to wire funds to their accounts. Since there is no reason to doubt these instructions coming from a trusted person involved in the process, the theft goes undetected until it’s too late.

The best and easiest fix for this problem is making sure to verify everything associated with the transfer of money either in person or over the phone with someone you have met, know and trust, such as your real estate agent. The entire foundation of this scam and others like it depends on people trusting a known email address.

With so much on the line at closing, make sure you’re handling as much of the process, particularly when it comes to payments, in person if possible. If it’s not possible, pick up the phone and double and triple check to protect yourself and the transaction.