ORLANDO, Florida. –A couple who recently moved from Connecticut to central Florida have become the latest victims of a multi-billion dollar nationwide real estate scheme dubbed Business Email Compromise.
Aimee and Michael Ferla admit they were duped by emails last month that appeared to be from the title company hired to handle the closing of their De Leon Springs home.
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“I sent the transfer on September 6, we signed all the closing documents on September 7, then on September 8 I was informed by the title company that the money had never been received”, Aimee told News 6. “$18,000, my life savings, gone.
Their money was transferred to a bank account in Texas. Investigators are trying to find the people behind the deception.
The Ferlas are not alone, according to the Global Investigative Operations Center. Real estate victims lost $5 million in business email compromise incidents last Friday alone, the data shows.
Stephen Dougherty, a US Secret Service financial investigator and financial analyst, was assigned to the GIOC to track real estate and global fraud cases in the United States.
Dougherty told News 6 that impostors gain a victim’s trust by gaining access to key information through chain letters and the dark web.
“They’ll intercept a trail of emails, 19 to 20 emails back and forth, copy and paste all of this for you to be like, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely my real estate agent and my title company,'” did he declare.
The Ferlas said no one involved in the shutdown wanted to help them get their money back.
Their bank is looking at when the Ferlas actually filed a request to recall the funds which could determine whether the institution will issue the lost money.
News 6 shared Ferlas’ documents and emails with the Michigan-based Global Investigative Operations Center and CertifID.
Tom Cronkright, co-founder and executive chairman of CertifID, told News 6 that higher interest rates mean higher amounts of money on properties putting “more money at risk” for homebuyers. in Florida and across the country.
“You have multiple parties in a transaction that coordinate on each side,” Cronkright said. “You put it all together and unfortunately it’s a perfect cocktail for this type of scam.”
Cronkright told News 6 he was the victim of a work email compromise in 2015. He lost $180,000 in a closed property to an international gang operating in Nigeria.
“It’s incredibly prevalent right now in real estate,” he said, “You can figure out who owns every property in the United States through an open public search, so it’s not hard to tell. ‘identify who the fraudster would need to access from an email account.’
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