LESSON FIVE: Scams that can Affect Your Business
- How You Know You’ve Been Hacked
- What To Do When You’ve Been Hacked
- What To Do Before You’re Hacked
- Common Scams
- Debt settlement and debt relief scams
- Foreclosure relief scams
- Protect your mortgage closing from scammers
- Get Rid of
- FBI Field Offices
According to reports, the scams target homebuyers who are nearing the closing date on their mortgage loan. The scammers attempt to steal the homebuyer’s closing funds—for example, their down payment and closing costs—by sending the homebuyer an email posing as the homebuyer’s real estate agent or settlement agent (title company, escrow officer, or attorney). The email falsely claims there has been a last minute change in the closing process, for example, that a check is no longer acceptable or that the wiring instructions have changed.
It instructs the homebuyer to wire or otherwise electronically transmit the closing funds to an account that the scammers control. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned homebuyers of this scam in blogs in March 2016 and June 2017 .
We encourage consumers to exercise vigilance and caution to proactively guard against these scams. Below are some tips, including tips from the FTC, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN ), and the FBI , to help you protect yourself against these types of phishing scams and take action if you are a victim.
- How You Know You’ve Been Hacked
- What To Do When You’ve Been Hacked
- What To Do Before You’re Hacked
Avoid email phishing scams
These tips may help homebuyers avoid this type of scam.
- Discuss the closing process and money transfer protocols with your real estate or settlement agent.
- If you receive an email requesting that you send money in connection with closing, even if it’s from a familiar source, STOP. Call your real estate or settlement agent to discuss.
- Don’t use phone numbers or links in the email.
- Don’t email financial information. Email is not a secure way to send financial information.
- Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security
- Before sending any wire transfer, ask your bank for help identifying any red flags in the wiring instructions. Red flags include potential discrepancies between the account name and the name of the intended beneficiary (i.e., your real estate or settlement agent). Your bank may also be able to compare the receiving account number to account numbers identified in past consumer complaints as the destination of fraudulent transactions.
- Confirm receipt of the wire transfer by your real estate or settlement agent a few hours after the wire was transmitted. If you or another entity involved in the closing suspect a problem, report it to law enforcement and your bank as soon as possible to increase your likelihood of recovering the money.
What to do if you are a victim
Contact your bank or the money transfer company immediately upon discovering that funds have been transferred to the wrong account. Ask the bank or money transfer company to attempt a wire recall.
Contact your and .
File a complaint, regardless of the dollar amount, with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at . Part of the mission of ic3 is to provide the public with a reliable and convenient reporting mechanism to submit information to the FBI concerning suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity. Information is analyzed and used for investigative and intelligence law enforcement purposes and for public awareness.
Report the phishing scam to the .
Debt settlement and debt relief scams
Foreclosure relief scams
Foreclosure relief or mortgage loan modification scams are schemes to take your money or your house – often by making a false promise of saving you from foreclosure.
If you are having trouble making payments on your mortgage, a HUD-approved housing counselor can help you assess your options and avoid scams. If you think you may have been a victim of a foreclosure relief scam, you may also want to consult an attorney. Read more about foreclosure relief scams.
Protect your mortgage closing from scammers
The FTC and the National Association of Realtors® want to remind you that scammers sometimes use emails to rob home buyersof their closing costs and personal information.
Here’s how the scam works: hackers break into the email accounts of buyers or real estate professionals to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. The hacker then sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire closingcosts to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Instead:
Contact the company through a number or email address you know is real. Don’t use phone numbers or links in the email.
Don’t open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you’re expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer.
If you’ve already sent money to a scammer, act quickly.
If you wired money through your bank, ask them right away for a wire recall. If you used a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint lines immediately.
Report your experience to the FTC and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to ic3.gov.
Scammers phish for mortgage closing costs
March 18, 2016 by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Buying a home is exciting. You saved for the down payment, scheduled the move, and are dreaming of planting new roots. Closing is right around the corner… unless a scammer gets your settlement fees first.
The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors® are warning home buyers about an email and money wiring scam. Hackers have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. Often, that’s money the buyer will never see again.
If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that. If it’s a phishing email, report it to the FTC.
Here are some ideas to help you avoid phishing scams:
Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the “s” stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.
Phishing is when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information – such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords. Scammers use your information to steal your money or your identity or both.
Scammers also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.
Phishing scammers lure their targets into a false sense of security by spoofing the familiar, trusted logos of established, legitimate companies. Or they pretend to be a friend or family member.
Phishing scammers make it seem like they need your information or someone else’s, quickly – or something bad will happen. They might say your account will be frozen, you’ll fail to get a tax refund, your boss will get mad, even that a family member will be hurt or you could be arrested. They tell lies to get to you to give them information.
Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links in emails. Even your friend or family members’ accounts could be hacked. Files and links can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
Scam artists try to trick people into clicking on links that will download viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software — often by bundling it with popular free downloads. To reduce your risk of downloading malware.
Install and update security software, and use a firewall.
- Set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS X) to update automatically.
Don’t change your browser’s security settings.
- You can minimize “drive-by” or bundled downloads if you keep your browser’s default security settings.
Pay attention to your browser’s security warnings.
- Many browsers come with built-in security scanners that warn you before you visit an infected webpage or download a malicious file.
Instead of clicking on a link in an email, type the URL of a trusted site directly into your browser.
- Criminals send emails that appear to be from companies you know and trust. The links may look legitimate, but clicking on them could download malware or send you to a scam site.
Don’t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is.
- Opening the wrong attachment — even if it seems to be from friends or family — can install malware on your computer.
- Get well-known software directly from the source. Sites that offer lots of different browsers, PDF readers, and other popular software for free are more likely to include malware.
Read each screen when installing new software
- If you don’t recognize a program, or are prompted to install additional “bundled” software, decline the additional program or exit the installation process.
Don’t click on popups or banner ads about your computer’s performance.
- Scammers insert unwanted software into banner ads that look legitimate, especially ads about your computer’s health. Avoid clicking on these ads if you don’t know the source.
Scan USBs and other external devices before using them.
- These devices can be infected with malware, especially if you use them in high traffic places, like photo printing stations or public computers.
Talk about safe computing.
- Tell your friends and family that some online actions can put the computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading “free” games or programs, opening chain emails, or posting personal information.
Back up your data regularly
- Whether it’s your taxes, photos, or other documents that are important to you, back up any data that you’d want to keep in case your computer crashes.
Monitor your computer for unusual behavior. Your computer may be infected with malware if it:
- slows down, crashes, or displays repeated error messages
- won’t shut down or restart
- serves a barrage of pop-ups
- serves inappropriate ads or ads that interfere with page content
- won’t let you remove unwanted software
- injects ads in places you typically wouldn’t see them, such as government websites
- displays web pages you didn’t intend to visit, or sends emails you didn’t write
Other warning signs of malware include:
- new and unexpected toolbars or icons in your browser or on your desktop
- unexpected changes in your browser, like using a new default search engine or displaying new tabs you didn’t open
- a sudden or repeated change in your computer’s internet home page
- a laptop battery that drains more quickly than it should
Get Rid of Malware
If you suspect there is malware on your computer, take these steps:
- Stop shopping, banking, and doing other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
- Update your security software, and then scan your computer for viruses and spyware. Delete anything it identifies as a problem. You may have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
- Check your browser to see if it has tools to delete malware or reset the browser to its original settings.
- If your computer is covered by a warranty that offers free tech support, contact the manufacturer. Before you call, write down the model and serial number of your computer, the name of any software you’ve installed, and a short description of the problem.
- Many companies — including some affiliated with retail stores — offer tech support. Telephone and online help usually are less expensive, but online search results might not be the best way to find help. Tech support scammers pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies. If you want tech support, look for a company’s contact information on their software package or on your receipt.
If you think your computer has malware, the Federal Trade Commission wants to know. File a complaint at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
- Do your own typing. If a company or organization you know sends you a link or phone number, don’t click. Use your favorite search engine to look up the website or phone number yourself. Even though a link or phone number in an email may look like the real deal, scammers can hide the true destination.
- Make the call if you’re not sure. Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information. Phishers use pressure tactics and prey on fear. If you think a company, friend or family member really does need personal information from you, pick up the phone and call them yourself using the number on their website or in your address book, not the one in the email.
- Turn on two-factor authentication. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
- As an extra precaution, you may want to choose more than one type of second authentication (e.g. a PIN) in case your primary method (such as a phone) is unavailable.
- Back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly to protect yourself against viruses or a ransomware attack.
- Keep your security up to date. Use security software you trust, and make sure you set it to update automatically.
- Report phishing emails and texts.
Forward phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org – and to the organization impersonated in the email. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To ensure the header is included, search the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint.
Visit Identitytheft.gov. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft; there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
You can also report phishing email to email@example.com. The Anti-Phishing Working Group – which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies – uses these reports to fight phishing.
Our local FBI offices are all about protecting your communities.
The FBI has 56 field offices (also called divisions) centrally located in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. They are the places where we carry out investigations, assess local and regional crime threats, and work closely with partners on cases and operations. Each field office is overseen by a special agent in charge, except our offices in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C., which are headed by an assistant director in charge due to their large size. Within these field offices are a total of about 380 resident agencies located in smaller cities and towns. Resident agencies are managed by supervisory special agents.
Alphabetical List of Field Offices
Results: 56 Items
200 McCarty Avenue
Albany, NY 12209
Counties Covered: Albany, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington
4200 Luecking Park Avenue NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Counties Covered: Bernalillo, Catron, Cibola (eastern half), Guadalupe, Quay, Sandoval (southern corner), Socorro, Torrence, and Valencia
101 East Sixth Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501
Covers the entire state of Alaska
3000 Flowers Road S
Atlanta, GA 30341
Covers the entire state of Georgia
2600 Lord Baltimore Drive
Baltimore, MD 21244
Covers the entire states of Maryland and Delaware
1000 18th Street North
Birmingham, AL 35203
Covers the Northern District of Alabama
201 Maple Street
Chelsea, MA 02150
Covers the entire states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island
One FBI Plaza
Buffalo, NY 14202
Covers 17 counties in western New York
7915 Microsoft Way
Charlotte, NC 28273
Covers the entire state of North Carolina
2111 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608
Covers 18 counties in northern Illinois extending from Interstate 80 north to the Wisconsin border, east to Indiana, and west to Iowa
2012 Ronald Reagan Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45236
Covers 48 counties throughout central and southern Ohio
1501 Lakeside Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Covers 40 counties in Ohio
151 Westpark Boulevard
Columbia, SC 29210
Covers the entire state of South Carolina
One Justice Way
Dallas, TX 75220
Covers 137 counties in North Texas and portions of East and West Texas
8000 East 36th Avenue
Denver, CO 80238
Covers the entire states of Colorado and Wyoming
477 Michigan Ave., 26th Floor
Detroit, MI 48226
Covers the entire state of Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula
El Paso Federal Justice Center
660 South Mesa Hills Drive
El Paso, TX 79912
Covers 17 counties in western Texas
91-1300 Enterprise Street
Kapolei, HI 96707
Covers the state of Hawaii along with Guam and Saipan
1 Justice Park Drive
Houston, TX 77292
Covers 40 counties in southeastern Texas
8825 Nelson B Klein Pkwy
Indianapolis, IN 46250
Covers the entire state of Indiana
1220 Echelon Parkway
Jackson, MS 39213
Covers the entire state of Mississippi
6061 Gate Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Covers 40 counties throughout northern Florida
1300 Summit Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
Covers the Western District of Missouri and the entire state of Kansas
1501 Dowell Springs Boulevard
Knoxville, TN 37909
Covers 41 counties in eastern Tennessee
1787 West Lake Mead Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89106-2135
Covers the entire state of Nevada
24 Shackleford West Boulevard
Little Rock, AR 72211
Covers the entire state of Arkansas
11000 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Covers the Central District of California
12401 Sycamore Station Place
Louisville, KY 40299-6198
Covers the entire state of Kentucky
225 North Humphreys Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38120
Covers 54 counties in western Tennessee.
2030 SW 145th Avenue
Miramar, FL 33027
Covers nine counties in southern Florida and responsible for addressing extraterritorial violations of American citizens in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America
3600 S. Lake Drive
St. Francis, WI 53235
Covers the entire state of Wisconsin
1501 Freeway Boulevard
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
Covers the entire states of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota
200 North Royal Street
Mobile, AL 36602
Covers the Middle Judicial District of Alabama and the Southern Judicial District of Alabama
600 State Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Covers the entire state of Connecticut
2901 Leon C. Simon Boulevard
New Orleans, LA 70126
Covers the entire state of Louisiana
26 Federal Plaza, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10278-0004
Covers the five boroughs of New York City, eight counties in New York state, and La Guardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport
11 Centre Place
Newark, NJ 07102
509 Resource Row
Chesapeake, VA 23320
Covers the southeastern part of Virginia, including the Southside, Peninsula, and the Virginia Eastern Shore
3301 West Memorial Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73134-7098
Covers the entire state of Oklahoma
4411 South 121st Court
Omaha, NE 68137-2112
Covers the entire states of Nebraska and Iowa
William J. Green, Jr. Building
600 Arch Street, 8th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Covers eastern Pennsylvania and three counties in New Jersey
21711 N. 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85024
Covers the entire state of Arizona and Grand Canyon National Park
3311 East Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Covers 25 counties in western Pennsylvania as well as the entire state of West Virginia
9109 NE Cascades Parkway
Portland, OR 97220
Covers the entire state of Oregon
1970 East Parham Road
Richmond, VA 23228
Covers most of the state of Virginia, except Northern Virginia and the Eastern Shore
2001 Freedom Way
Roseville, CA 95678
Along with our main office in Roseville, we have eight satellite offices, known as resident agencies, in the area
5425 West Amelia Earhart Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Covers the entire states of Utah, Idaho, and Montana
5740 University Heights Blvd.
San Antonio, TX 78249
Counties covered: Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Frio, Gillespie, Gonzalez, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Mason, Medina, Real, Uvalde, and Wilson
10385 Vista Sorrento Parkway
San Diego, CA 92121
Covers San Diego and Imperial Counties in southern California.
450 Golden Gate Avenue, 13th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94102-9523
Along with our main office in San Francisco, we have seven satellite offices in the area.
Federal Office Building, Suite 526
150 Carlos Chardon Avenue
Hato Rey, PR 00918
Covers Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
1110 3rd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101-2904
Covers the entire state of Washington
900 East Linton Avenue
Springfield, IL 62703
Covers central and southern Illinois
2222 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
Along with our main office in St. Louis, we have three satellite offices, known as resident agencies, in the area.
5525 West Gray Street
Tampa, FL 33609
Covers 18 counties in central and southwest Florida
601 4th Street NW
Washington, DC 20535
Covers the District of Columbia and several counties in Northern Virginia