You finally found it—the two-story bungalow in the part of town you’ve been eyeing for years – the one with the best coffee shop and your favorite farmer’s market. You made your best offer and are about to close on your dream home.

Then, just before closing, an email from your real estate agent pops up, claiming a last-minute change to the money-wiring instructions. You wire the funds. But the money never makes it to the bank. It turns out that email wasn’t from your agent – but a hacker. You got spoofed.

Unfortunately, enterprising hackers are busy tricking homeowners into sending them their hard-won down payment. Homeowners using more common mortgage types need to be aware of scams because if you’re not careful, you’ll end up in even worse trouble than you are right now.

“Purchasing a home can be a highly emotional time for people, one that creates greater opportunities to be vulnerable to scams,” says Nick Serrano, EVP of Omega Mortgage Group. “Beware ‘too good to be true’ scenarios and never hesitate to validate with your team of experts – your real estate agent, loan officer, and escrow agent.”

Here’s a list of common scams and how to avoid them.

Watch out for scams like these

Buy Back Schemes

The scammer comes to you with a win-win solution. You sign your title over to them, and they’ll pay your mortgage. You still get to live in your house. But now, instead of paying your mortgage, you’ll pay rent to the scammer. And once you get back on your feet, you’ll still have the option to repurchase your house. The only problem is the scammer isn’t paying your mortgage. Now that they own your house, they can either evict you or just collect your rent until your lender forecloses on the house.

Bait and Switch

Scammers might promise that they can lower your monthly payments. No questions asked. No money upfront. All you have to do is sign a couple of papers. Be careful what you’re signing. There’s usually a title in that stack of mortgage papers in this scam. By signing them all, you’ve also signed your house over to the scammer.

Your mortgage has (not) Been Sold!

It’s not unheard of for your mortgage to be sold to another lending company. So, when you get a letter saying you should start sending your payments to a new address, it’s no big deal, right? If you get a letter like that, always confirm it with your lender. It could be a scam. And the worst part? You think you’re still making payments, so you won’t know you’ve been scammed until your actual lender tells you you’re in default.

Phantom Promises

A scammer will set up a fake company that promises to lower your monthly payments, get you a better interest rate, or find another way to help you avoid foreclosure. All you have to do is give them a fee upfront, and you’ll have a money-back guarantee. These scammers will pocket your upfront fee and never deliver on their promises. Before you get scammed, remember you never have to pay upfront for a loan modification.

If you’re facing foreclosure, resources are available to help you. Contact your lender immediately and learn more about the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

Seller Impersonation

One prevalent scam, known as seller impersonation fraud, begins when a criminal contacts an agent, posing as the legitimate property owner, and asks them to list the property. The criminal will communicate as if they are the real owner, sometimes providing a phony ID and more. Their objective is to get the agent to find a buyer.

Once the “sale” is complete and funds are transferred, the criminal vanishes with the money, leaving the buyer with a worthless title. Unfortunately, the money is often unrecoverable, which could cost the buyer their life savings and cost the agent the commission on the sale, along with their professional reputation. However, real estate companies and title and escrow companies have really caught on and put many checks and balances into place to stop this type of scam.

How to Avoid These Scams

Scammers often start by gaining access to email accounts and by snagging passwords through public Wi-Fi or via email solicitations that appear to be from senders you know.

The bad guys comb through the email accounts, searching for any information about home sales and upcoming closings. Once they’ve found what they need, they email consumers posing as their real estate pro, attorney, or escrow officer. The email includes wiring instructions linked to a fraudulent account.

Here’s how to prevent a hacker from running away with your home before you even have a chance to buy it:

Never Send Personal Info Over Email

Personal info includes a bank account number and a Social Security number. Your agent shouldn’t be sending this stuff by email, either.

Pick Up the Phone

If you ever receive wiring instructions by email, call your agent or lender to confirm one of them sent it. Call your agent’s phone number on record, not the one listed in the suspect email.

Discuss the Wiring Process with Your Agent

Early in your relationship with your agent, ask what you should expect, when, and from whom.

Change Your Passwords Often

Create a reminder on your phone or computer to update passwords monthly. Make them strong, something even your friends and family members wouldn’t be able to guess right away – something other than password1 or your dog’s name.

Set Up Two-Factor Verification

Two-factor verification requires a password and a code sent to your phone or other device to log in, which is more challenging to hackers than a single-layer login. Make sure you set it up on your email and bank accounts.

Read Up

Get even more email security best practices. Got spoofed? If you ever receive a suspicious email, report it to the FTC by forwarding it to

Avoid scams and connect with Dickson Realty to find an agent who can walk you through the process and keep you safe along the way.