In this digital day and age when business is largely conducted over the cybersphere, we are capable of transactions our forefathers could not have completed with the ease we can today, but this convenience comes at a cost, one which the Bown’s of Utah understand only too well.
Cyber thieves have learned new ways to find out who is buying a home and enough related information that they can trick Buyers into wiring money to them instead of the Title or Escrow company overseeing the purchase of their home-to-be.
As Jotham Sederstrom from Inman noted:
“Acell and Anne Bown of Payson, Utah, were gunning to close the deal on a new home in the small town of Mona by Dec. 22 when they received an email purportedly sent by their agent, Carrie Butterfield of Intermountain Properties. But the email — one letter off from Butterfield’s authentic account — was a hoax, directing the couple to wire $91,000 as a down payment, immediately.
The email also directed the Bowns not to contact Butterfield because she would be tied up in meetings all day, according to a report from local CBS affiliate KUTV 2 in Salt Lake City.
‘The message from our agent said ‘I will be in a workshop all day, so don’t try to call me,’ ‘ Anne Bown told CBS. ‘We were so eager to get everything done in a hurry so we could move.’ ‘ “
The truth was revealed at the time of closing when they discovered they still owed $91,000.
While this type of cyber theft is occurring more often where Buyers are tricked into wiring money to another account and not the Title or Escrow company, there are ways to assure you are not a victim of such theft.
Here are 3 steps you can take to make sure you don’t fall prey to such schemes:
- Do not share over the internet any information regarding your purchasing of a home so that thieves cannot use it against you.
- If you cannot personally visit, call the title/escrow company to ensure you understand their process of collecting the money for the purchase of the home you’re buying. (note: get the title company’s contact information from a reliable source such as your agent, walk-in, or the title company’s website, verified that it is the correct site through a third party such as your agent.)
- If you receive an email from your agent or the title company regarding any changes in closing instructions regarding the exchange of money, follow up in person or over the phone to ensure these changes are correct. (Again, being careful to use a number you already vetted to be the correct company number.)
With a little preparation and clear communication before any changes occur, buyers and sellers can greatly minimize the chances that they fall victim to one of these schemes. In the age of the internet, we have conveniences our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, and so long as we stay in contact with key players in a transaction as large as buying a home, we can enjoy those conveniences without the potential headaches. This I am sure that both Acell and Anne Bown of Utah would much agree with.