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Home Buying Scam

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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

Hackers target hundreds of real estate transactions every day, sometimes stealing six-figure sums from home buyers. 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.

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

The Santa Clara County District Attorney is investigating the theft of $25,000 from a San Jose family, after a series of NBC Bay Area reports exposed the depth of the problem. Chris Chmura reports.

'THEY FAILED TO PROTECT MY MONEY'

An NBC Bay Area investigation reveals widespread realtor use of vulnerable e-mail accounts. Full Story

The email practices of real estate professionals are under scrutiny as NBC Bay Area investigates an increasing number of wire fraud scams stealing home buyers’ down payments.

DREAM DESTROYED

A family that lost almost $89,000 demands answers from the real estate industry. Full Story

Bay Area families are losing their life savings to a fast-growing scam that targets homebuyers. But a software solution may offer hope to prevent more Californians from becoming victims.

VULNERABLE TO HACKERS

Real estate industry insiders say virtually all home sales are at risk of hack attacks. Full Story

Real estate professionals and the FBI have a warning for California homebuyers and sellers: You will be targeted by thieves and hackers. Consumer investigator Chris Chmura reports.

HOMEBUYERS, BEWARE

A San Jose family’s move to Ohio is suddenly upended when thieves hack into the transaction and steal their down payment. Full Story

A sophisticated scam targeting homebuyers robbed a San Jose couple of their life savings, and real estate experts say everyone shopping for a place to live is at risk. Consumer investigator Chris Chmura reports.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS

Here are some tips to prevent home loan scams.

Watch out! Thieves are targeting your money! Here are some tips to prevent home loan scams.
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