After a yearlong search, Aaron Cole and his family finally found their dream home in Canby, Ore., in December 2018. The seller accepted Cole’s $440,000 offer, and with a down payment of $123,000, he and his wife were ready to move in just in time to celebrate Christmas and their son’s fifth birthday.
Nothing seemed amiss when Cole received an email during the closing process with wiring instructions for his down payment. The email, which appeared to come from his title agency, listed Cole’s agent, loan officer, and other parties involved in transactional documents, along with correct contact information for each. So, Cole followed the instructions and completed the wire transfer.
Eight days later, he received a phone call from his title agency, WFG National Title Insurance Company, providing wire instructions for his down payment. That’s when Cole realized he had sent his family’s life savings to a scammer.
Cole isn’t alone: Reports of real estate-related email phishing scams jumped 1,100% between 2015 and 2017, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB estimates a loss of nearly $1 billion in real estate transactions from such scams.