Imagine saving for years to buy a home. You budget. You scrimp. You dream. And then, you take the plunge.
But, just as you're supposed to get the keys, you discover that when you wired your down payment you mistakenly sent it to a thief's bank account. And now it's gone for good.
That can happen. And, sadly, it does happen. Daily.
Hackers and spoofers are preying on unsuspecting home buyers and raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. The online crooks pose as real estate salespeople, title agents, and mortgage brokers. They infiltrate e-mail chains, mimic an agent, and trick the buyer. When someone falls for the bogus bank wire instructions, the imposter transfers their money offshore and vanishes. All without a trace.
NBC Bay Area is exposing the growing scam and showing how hurtful it is for families to lose their savings in an instant. We are also highlighting a security gap that gives the thieves a way in: personal e-mail accounts. Data collected by NBC Bay Area reveals - in stark terms -- that the majority of local realtors continue to use the very e-mail accounts that the FBI says hackers can easily exploit. The big question is: why?
Many in real estate believe the scammers are targeting virtually all home sales. But many victims believe the industry is ignoring the problem. Families are speaking up for change and to warn others that home buying is under attack.
SF FIRM OFFERS SOLUTION
New technology developed in San Francisco offers a "safe room" to keep funds safe. So, why hasn't the real estate industry embraced tighter security to protect clients' money? The NBC Bay Area Responds team investigates. Full Story
SANTA CLARA DA TAKES ACTION
The Santa Clara District Attorney's Office takes action on stolen deposits. But, can the DA really find the thieves? Full Story
'THEY FAILED TO PROTECT MY MONEY'
An NBC Bay Area investigation reveals widespread realtor use of vulnerable e-mail accounts. Full Story
A family that lost almost $89,000 demands answers from the real estate industry. Full Story
VULNERABLE TO HACKERS
Real estate industry insiders say virtually all home sales are at risk of hack attacks. Full Story
A San Jose family’s move to Ohio is suddenly upended when thieves hack into the transaction and steal their down payment. Full Story
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
Here are some tips to prevent home loan scams.