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Cindy Bernal couldn’t keep up with California housing prices and wanted to move to a place she could afford.
She decided to buy a house in Ohio to be near her daughter.
The three-bedroom home south of Cleveland was selling for $25,400. Everything should have gone smoothly but instead, it went terribly wrong.
“I was in shock, I think. I didn’t know what to do,” said Bernal, “I just did what I was instructed to do and thought it would all be OK.”
Cindy followed the instructions she got in an email and electronically transferred the payment for her new home. As it turned out, the money went to the wrong bank.
“So I wired the money and here I am. With nothing,” said Bernal.
Cindy’s situation is not unique. Law enforcement officials are warning first time home buyers about a new online scam. Buyers are getting official looking emails giving them bank and router information for their home payments. But the money is going into the hands of thieves not to home sellers.
Hackers are apparently getting escrow and real estate professional’s accounts and stealing information on home buyers. They are then sending emails with fake information to buyers and tricking them to route their payments to the con-artists accounts. Once they get the money, the crooks vanish.
Cindy Bernal’s money did not go to Ohio but instead to a bank in Dallas, Texas.
“That’s all I had,” said Cindy, “I’m struggling to pay my rent and my bills now because I thought we were going to be gone by now.”
Dave Walsh with the California Association of Realtors says the problem is going on across the country. He says hackers are using software “bots” to attack servers and cells phone look for personal information. He says hackers are now targeting virtually every home buyer, seller, and agent.
As for Cindy Bernal, she’s struggling to pay her California rent and has no idea if she’ll ever see her money again.
“It’s like no one cares,” said Bernal.