The Federal Bureau of Investigation is ringing the alarm bell over a shocking new scam that has already cost innocent Americans their homes and life savings.
On Dec. 4, the FBI shared the story of an Oregon family who fell victim to the scam — a plot that had them unknowingly funneling their money to criminals.
The Cole family did everything right before having the rug yanked out from underneath them.
They bought a property, and through investment and rising market prices, eventually had something they could use to trade up for a bigger place.
The Coles sold their home and wired over $120,000 for a down payment after a title company email gave them instructions on how to send the funds. Days later, a phone call would bring their world crashing down.
On the phone was the title company — the real one. They had called and asked if the Coles were ready to transfer the funds.
It took no time at all to figure out what happened, but it was already too late. The Coles had become victims of a sophisticated business email compromise scam.
Criminals faked an email account to make it look like it belonged to the title company. Father Aaron Cole — who was by no means naive about technology — noticed no red flags before he fell for the scam.
Authorities say that criminals were likely monitoring the family’s social media, always watching for an opportunity to rob the innocent people blind.
The Coles were looking at homelessness.
With their savings split between “mule” accounts to be filtered out of the country and their old house already sold, the family had no recourse.
Thankfully, the small title company they were doing business with stepped in and helped.
The company offered to help the Coles cover their down payment. In exchange, the family would spread the word about the scam and help other people avoid losing their homes and savings.
Although one email may not seem that harmful, it cost the Coles nearly everything.
“The equity in the house was our way to move forward,” Aaron Cole said. “I put myself back 15 years.”
The FBI says that despite the sophistication of the crimes, being careful when moving money can help avoid criminals. The FBI recommends that when moving money, it always helps to double-check with different methods. Calling or visiting the people you’re working with in person is exactly what the criminals don’t want you to do.
Being careful can help keep your home and your money where it belongs: in your possession.
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