Mortgage Phishing Scheme Targets Homebuyers

BBB Northwest + Pacific warns of a growing scam targeting would-be homebuyers.

Here’s how the scam works: First, scammers gain access to a real estate agents’ email and monitor communications. Next, they use a phishing scheme confirming or suggesting last minute wiring changes to divert closing costs and down payments to a fraudulent account.

Mortgage phishing scams such as this are on the rise. In fact, they rose a staggering 1,100% between 2015 and 2017, according to Consumer Protection Bureau (CPB).

So far this year, BBB NWP has received more than 100 real estate transaction complaints. A quarter of these in Oregon alone. And, last year, northwest consumers reported losing over $30,000 to phishing scams.

“When closing on a home, it’s always a good idea to confirm final financial transactions by calling advisors directly and not just trusting an email, especially, if there’s last minute changes,” advises Dawn Johnson, BBB Northwest + Pacific marketplace manager.

“If the money has already been sent, act quickly by calling your bank or the wire transfer company and asking that the payment be recalled,” adds Charles Harwood, Federal Trade Commission Dir., Northwest Region.

Here are a few additional steps homebuyers can take to help avoid mortgage phishing scams:

  • Do NOT email financial information
  • Do NOT use free WiFi networks while conducting financial business
  • Never click on links or use unfamiliar phone numbers in emails
  • If you are the victim of wire fraud, contact the authorities immediately and report it to