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Ask Eli: Fraud Warning To Home Buyers

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

I hope everybody had a great Christmas holiday and is enjoying some time off with family and friends this week! Instead of answering a specific question today, I’d like to offer something of a PSA to anybody buying a home right now or planning to in the near future.

There is a lot of wire fraud going on right now brought about by scammers who request wires using email addresses that look like they come from your agent, title company or lender. They hack the email servers of one of the parties to the transaction, identify where a buyer is in the settlement process, and send a technically accurate email with wiring instructions for an Earnest Money Deposit or down payment.

Oftentimes they use a Gmail address, but mask the name so that it says the name of somebody the home buyer recognizes, but in more advanced scams, they use a domain that closely resembles a real one. For example, they may use [email protected] (two “L” in Eli) instead of [email protected]. It seems like most of the people carrying out the scams are familiar with the real estate settlement process because they’re able to communicate with a level of expertise that doesn’t raise any red flags.

Once you wire funds, the money is gone, so if you send a wire to a fraudulent account there’s no getting it back. Your first choice should be to use physical checks for deposits and final payments, but if you have to send a wire, but sure to contact your agent to make sure that the timing of the request is correct and call the receiving party at a known number (e.g. from their website) to confirm the accuracy of the wiring instructions.

Please share this notice with anybody you know in the home buying process. I’ve heard stories of too many people losing large amounts of money this year from these scams and hope this post helps avoid further loss. Until next year friends!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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