The con is older than the internet–but all the more powerful in a real estate industry locked down by a pandemic and increasingly dependent on cyber-transactions. The digital scam nearly upended a deal just hours before closing.
Willow Glen agent Don Sabatini led his client, a savvy, professional woman with grown children, through the months-long home search–and a frantic effort to recover a $180,000 down payment unwittingly wired to a criminal’s account.
Sabatini, an agent with decades of experience in the Bay Area, had heard fraud warnings for years but never went through it. “It’s scary … I tell you,” he said.
Criminal Hacks Still Growing Problem
Real estate professionals say they are ever vigilant about wire fraud and criminal hacks, but it’s a growing problem. The FBI estimated 11,300 people were victimized in online real estate schemes in 2018, a 17 percent jump from the previous year, according to the most recent data available. The losses totaled $150 million, primarily through hacks and fake or spoofed email schemes, the agency said.