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Community Rallies Around Fla. Real Estate Wire Fraud Victim

A single S. Fla. mother lost half of her $63K down payment to wire fraud criminals and thought she lost her dream house – one that she worked multiple jobs for many years to afford. But after a TV news story, RE industry pros and strangers stepped in to help.

MIAMI – Patricia Verlino, a South Florida resident, thought she lost the chance to buy her dream home after a wire fraud scam duped her out of a $63,000 down payment – her life savings. But more than $30,000 in crowdfunding donations from strangers and the community helped her partially recover funds and still close on the home.

Real estate wire fraud has been around for a while, but as long it continues to reel in victims, it won’t go away. While scammers continue to find novel ways to steal other people’s money, it usually involves a buyer who is persuaded, often through a fake “verify your information” email, to give away their email password. Once a scammer has that password, they log in to the buyer’s account and monitor the transaction. Then, the day money must be wired, they email the buyer, act as if they’re (usually) the title company, and instruct them to wire the money to them via a fake account.

A growing number of homebuyers face the threat of wire fraud in a real estate transaction, and in many of cases, it ends with the buyer losing a home and their entire down payment.

Verlino spent years working multiple jobs in order to save for a $63,000 down payment to buy a home of her own. Then she lost it.

As with most wire fraud cases, Verlino’s real estate transaction seemed to be going smoothly. She received an email that appeared from her original title company that provided instructions of how to wire her funds prior to closing. She followed the directions.

But the email was fake. Verlino’s two payments – which totaled $63,000 – were wired to a scammer instead.

It was “the worst thing you can go through,” Verlino told Fox News.

Verlino reported the case to police and was able to recover $30,000 before the wire transfer was finalized – but she lost half of her money and didn’t have enough to close on the house. However, after help from the community, strangers and real estate industry professionals, Verlino was able to raise the funds needed to close.

“It’s a wonderful feeling when you see a team of industry professionals come together for the greater good,” Kevin Tacher, owner of the title insurance company Independence Title, told Fox News. A local furniture company, City Furniture, also donated furniture for her children’s bedroom.

Source: “Mom Robbed of $63k in Real Estate Scam Closes on House Thanks to Donations From Strangers,” Fox News (July 6, 2021)

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