SOUTHLAKE (CBSDFW.COM) - Police are warning North Texans about a new scam that has already cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Detective Josh Ellis at the Southlake Department of Public Safety says, "They send the money and it's gone before you know it."
Ellis says the scam starts with a what appears to be a legitimate email and ends up costing victims big bucks.
"We're ranging from $100 to $230,000, $240,000."
The department has had ten of these cases in just the past six months.
Ellis says criminals are hacking their way into the email accounts of realtors, mortgage and title companies and finding clients who are ready to close on their new homes. That's when police say the hackers email the buyers, asking them to wire their down-payment to a certain account.
The homebuyers, realtors, and mortgage and title companies are overlooking minor grammatical and other errors in the emails and then send the money.
The detective says the criminals are able to do this by using public wifi. "If the business is on a public wifi, then they're able to hack them that way because it is not as secure as a my-fi, wifi residence."
The criminals he says can be anywhere, and are nearly impossible to track when using public wifi.
When asked if the digital fingerprint that could lead to the hacker vanishes as quickly as the money, Ellis didn't hesitate to answer: "Exactly."
As a result, the Southlake Department of Public Safety is urging mortgage and title companies to stop using public wifi to communicate because again, the practice is allowing the criminals to hack their emails.
As for the public, police say look closely before you click.
"Checking the emails, making sure we're finding the grammatical mistakes or something that might not look right. Call first."
We reached out to some of the victims in these cases, but they declined to be interviewed. In one case, police said they were able to retrieve most of the $220,000 from one of the victims because his account was in the same bank as the criminal's.
No arrests have been made in the cases.
Other people we spoke with say they also received the bogus emails, but they discovered they were fraudulent and didn't wire the money.
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