A California couple has learned the hard way that if you’re not careful, the dream of owning a home can quickly become a nightmare. Kevin and Nicole Noar had found the perfect home in Carlsbad, a beach community north of San Diego, where they could raise their one-year old son and grow their family. But when it came time to close the deal, an unsecured email from their escrow company and a hacker who knew how to exploit it left the couple reeling, victims of a wire fraud scam.
Kevin and Nicole were all set to put down a 60 percent down payment on their dream home, a total of $775,000. But their escrow company used an unsecured email account to send them the closing documents. A hacker intercepted that email and via new emails posed as an employee of the escrow company and their real estate agent. The hacker sent the couple fake financial documents and instructions for wiring the down payment money to the escrow company. Kevin and Nicole followed the instructions, went to the bank and wired the money. But instead of going to the escrow company, it ended up in the hacker’s bitcoin account in Singapore.
The couple is now living with relatives as they work with the FBI and local law enforcement to try to recover their money. They are considering legal action against the escrow company. With more and more real estate business being handled online, the lesson is clear. Never conduct a financial transaction based on information you receive online, always verify everything in person or over the phone with somebody you know personally.