My wife and I are in the final stretch of an arduous closing process on a co-op. As is the case with many co-op purchases, small local lenders, local real estate agents and small legal firms are involved on both sides of the deal. Needless to say, with the small players involved, security protocol is lax at best – learned that the hard way.
This process has been very tiresome and emotionally draining with many email chains being passed containing my attorney, seller’s attorney, my lender and the attorney for my lender, over the course of 6 months.
The scammer somehow (to the best of my knowledge) breached my lender and then posed as the paralegal for my lender. This was a name I recognized, has been on the past chains and had the valid signature and email that I had seen in past chains. Email came from her (only to me) congratulating me on my upcoming closing stating that my closing disclosure has been finalized (it has), and instructing me to wire the funds of $80K-ish to the attorney in order to make our upcoming closing deadline. The amount was/is extremely close to the final amount we owe for closing. No glaring issues with grammar and punctuation – consistent with her other messages.
I immediately reached out to my attorney asking if they knew about this and if the funds matched what they were told we needed for closing but did not hear a response.
If I was thinking clearly, the story would have ended there as I waited for my attorney to respond. But no, I let my emotion get the best of me, panicking that I can’t be the one to hold up the closing process and had to get down to the bank to get this processed.
Pulled up the wire instruction details, saw the header of my lender’s attorney, their address bank and routing info, Chase Bank, all seemed legit in the moment. Keep in mind I have never been through this process before and I was hell-bent on completing this transaction so we can close.
Sat down with the agent processing my request and discussed the process. I forwarded her the wire instructions and she and I reviewed together. She noticed “Doha Worldwide” as the account name (I blindly overlooked this) and she immediately said “this looks suspicious.” I called the number on the email signature (one number off from the attorney’s office), got an out of service message then saw the sending address: [[email protected] ](mailto:[email protected] ) – I knew then that this was less than legit.
Called the attorney directly, spoke to the “real” paralegal and she confirmed that a direct wire transfer request from her only is not protocol and this is suspicious.
The bank agent/guardian angel prevented the transmission after her suspicions were confirmed.
Typing all this to state that the signs were there had I been calm enough to look for them. I let my emotion consume my actions and nearly had a disastrous financial result.
Filed a report when I got home with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.ic3.gov/ )
Trust me, I feel idiotic for going so far in the process to potentially wire the funds. You hear about scams, how they’ll never happen to me, etc, etc. What is unique about this is how specific and targeted the attempt is – the timing, knowing we will be imminently closing and amounts involved. We are this close to closing, have been paying countless fees along the way (appraisal, processing, commitment, settlement fees, on and on) and are petrified of holding up this deal and everything falling apart. With tensions high, the risk for falling for fraudulent schemes increases dramatically.
To those going through this process:
-Call and confirm any requesting entity of a wire transfer to validate the request – I failed to do this initially and should have been my first step.
-Call and confirm every possible step with your legal counsel, broker and/or lending agency.
-Demand that you be told what your financial obligations are – in writing – from those verified contacts and that you will be given time to verify, validate and complete each and every transaction.
If this helps just one person, then my embarrassment to admit how close I came to falling for this will be worthwhile.