I just spoke with some people who informed me of a scam they were hit with in late 2017. Are you sitting down? This will astonish you…. and make you MAD. Here’s the story.
They live here and were in the process of purchasing some property in California. In that regard, they were working with a realtor down there. They had been in touch for months looking for properties, examining properties, etc. So, getting emails from the realtor was quite common and expected. They had finally identified a property that they wanted to buy and were exchanging emails with the realtor many times getting information, negotiating, etc.
On a Friday, they got an email telling them that the realtor was sick that day and the realtor’s assistant would be in touch with them that day to arrange the down payment situation. The closing was supposed to happen the next Monday, so all seemed in order. Nothing unusual going on here.
Sure enough, they got an email from the assistant going over the final details of the sale and letting them know that they needed to transfer the down payment to the realtor’s bank that day so the escrow could close on Monday. Again, this had been discussed several times before so it appeared quite normal. They were instructed to wire down $60,000 (I am rounding here) to an account at one of the large national banks (you would know the name). They did exactly that. They were then instructed to call the realtor on Monday after lunch time to allow the funds to clear and check in on the closing.
So far, so good……right? Well, they called the realtor on Monday right after lunch and asked about the down payment they sent and the closing.
The realtor said “but I don’t HAVE and assistant and we never got the money”! Somebody had intercepted the realtor emails going back and forth and duplicated the letterhead and logo and everything so that the phony email looked exactly like the real thing. They got the FBI involved. The FBI told them that this was one of the most inventive and sophisticated scams they had ever seen. You see, they easily traced the money to the big bank account (it was real…. it just wasn’t the realtor’s bank account). But, then, these hackers somehow transferred the money OUT of the country. They did this on Monday morning. That’s why they told these folks to NOT call until after Monday lunch. The FBI said they will NEVER see the money again and it couldn’t be traced. The FBI made it clear that there was NO trail to follow (honestly, I don’t understand that, but I am no expert).
I asked them “is there a lesson here? What would you tell others?” I like their response. They said next time they will get on an airplane and deliver the cashier’s check personally to escrow!!
BUT THEY ARE OUT $60,000. OUCH! From a tax standpoint, they qualify for what is called a “casualty loss” deduction. That won’t take the sting away, but it will help a little bit. BUT GET THIS…..the new tax law has REPEALED the casualty loss deductions! No kidding, folks. If this had happened in 2018 (or later) they would get NO TAX DEDUCTION.
This is, truly, a crazy world we live in. Be careful out there. I wish I could offer some kind of outstanding help or insight here…..but the FBI hit it on the head! I guess, maybe, I would also get on a plane and take the money to wherever the closing is! My head hurts…..in WHAT world is this kind of thing “okay”? I am astonished and angry…. and so sad for these people.
Okay…. sorry for such a downer of a newsletter! Be good to each other and let’s share these kinds of things so nobody else gets hit.