Years of hard-earned savings – gone in an instant. One family saw the down payment on their dream home stolen by a hacker.
“It’s devastating to live thru and find out your dreams have changed.”
This picturesque property was a dream for Paul LeBlanc and wife Erika.
After years of searching, this lakefront home in Hillborough, New Hampshire was the perfect fit.
Within days, the seller accepted their offer. And this view of the water was almost a reality.
But little did Paul know, a hacker had infiltrated the email chain about the home purchase.
The scammer learned the address of the property and the exact date and time of the closing.
The hacker posed as the title company and emailed Paul instructions on how to wire transfer his down payment.
It wasn’t until the closing that Paul found his money was gone. He had unknowingly transferred it into an account set up by the hacker.
“How much money are we talking?” a reporter asks.
“Over $140,000,” LeBlanc admits.
“I can’t even imagine what’s going through your mind at that point,” the reporter says.
“Panic would be the first thing that came to my mind,” says LeBlanc.
“It’s a big problem,” warns FBI Special Agent Michael Kelly.
So big, that scammers have stolen $3 billion globally, according to the FBI.
Victims range from deep-pocketed corporations to small-scale home buyers. “There really is no individual or industry that is immune to this,” says Kelly.
Kelly says the scam so tough to detect because hackers will create a fake email address, often simply switching around two letters – like the a and the e in Michael to appear like the real one.
“People need to know this scheme exists because if you don’t know, you’re going to fall for it,” Kelly cautions.
Paul and his family remain hopeful federal investigators will somehow track down and return the stolen money.
But with the lakefront property now back on the market, it seems their dream home will soon be gone for good.
“We were all fooled.”
The FBI says to avoid becoming a victim do things the old fashioned way: pick up the phone or have a face-to-face conversation before signing off on a wire transfer.