"Everyone is at risk": Better Business Bureau warns of dramatic rise in real estate fraud

Nearly $1 billion lost to real estate fraud

A new real estate email scam has cybercriminals cashing in. Losses have soared from $360 million in 2016 to $1.3 billion last year.

Dana Palmieri has lived in her parents' basement, saving money for eight years. The preschool teacher was about to close on her first condominium last spring. 

Two weeks before the move, she received an email that she thought was from her attorney, asking her to wire almost $11,000 for closing costs. The email had her lawyer's name, but not the correct email address.
 
"When I double-clicked, that's when I was able to see the difference," Palmieri said.

She lost her money and the condo. 

Better Business Bureau investigations specialist Steve Baker authored a new report highlighting the exploding number of similar real estate email scams. Reports of real estate fraud attempts rose 1,100% between 2015 and 2017. In 2017 alone, nearly $1 billion in real estate transaction costs was lost to fraud.

"We found that 80% of businesses have gotten one of these emails in the last year," Baker said.

Palmieri now has to start all over. No one knows how the hacker was able to find out the details of her closing and start emailing her. The BBB's advice to consumers is to use the telephone to confirm all money transactions and don't rely on email.