New home owner almost loses her $45,000 down payment to a real estate phishing scam

Local News

Lorraine Khan and her husband sacrificed for years to save enough for a down payment on a house. Khan said knowing she came so close to being scammed out of that money is unsettling and she wants others to be aware so they don’t get taken advantage of.

Lorraine Khan stood outside the front door of her two-story, four-bedroom, dream home in Kailua. 

KHON: “What has the process been like trying to purchase this home?”
“It has been crazy challenging,” Khan said.

But they made it. Saved the money and were scheduled to sign the papers Friday afternoon.

“I went to my bank yesterday, got the cashiers check for the exact amount made out to the title company, and they said just bring it with you to closing.”

When she woke up this morning, there was an email from her escrow agent

“It basically said, can you wire the funds instead,” Khan explained.

Her husband and realtor were cc’d on the email so it looked real.

But she said one thing seemed odd once she got the wire instructions–it told her to wire the $45,000 to a man on Maui, not the the title company.

She also thought it was odd that her realtor didn’t respond at all in the email chain, but got herself ready to go back to the bank to exchange the cashiers check.

Khan was literally on her way to the bank but stopped and made a call to her realtor first.

“Why would I be going to the bank and getting a wire transfer to a person instead of the title company because it didn’t really make sense to me, and she was like you wouldn’t. Don’t wire any money!”

Kasandra Shriver, Khan’s realtor, said she did the right thing by contacting her. 

“We immediately notified escrow. I notified my brokers and we were able to stop anything from happening. Thank goodness she was on top of it,” Shriver said.

Shriver said she has colleagues who have had this happen to clients before, but she’s never dealt with it first hand.

“(The phishing scams) are designed to get people at their most vulnerable times, and send funds to people that aren’t entitled to receive them.”

The best way to avoid falling into this type of trap is to always double check with your realtor.

“Call to make sure an email came from the right account,” Shriver said.

After Khan spoke to Shriver, she realized the emails were all fake.

“The whole time it looked like (Shriver) was being cc’d on the emails, but it was a phantom email address. It wasn’t even her and it wasn’t even the escrow officer. So it was a complete scam,” Khan said.

“Never just follow the instructions you receive…You’re wiring your life savings, in some situations, to purchase your first home. So it could be absolutely devastating,” Shriver said.

Another thing to be aware of are spelling and grammatical errors since many scams originate in other countries where English is not the first language.

 The email sent to Khan contained numerous grammatical errors.

Above all, the key it prevent becoming a victim of a scam like this is communication.

Khan is thankful she caught it before it was too late.

Both Khan and Shriver are unsure how the scammers got her information. 

For more information on phishing scams click here.

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