Hacker derails mortgage transaction

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 2, 2018

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local couple may have lost tens of thousands of dollars through a mortgage scam, St. Clair Shores police said. 

St. Clair Shores Police Detective Gordon Carrier said that while closing on a house in November, a St. Clair Shores woman sent and received emails to the banks, real estate agents and title company involved in the transaction.

“The emails were hacked by an unknown person,” Carrier said Dec. 21. 

The hacker then posed as the real estate agent and gave the woman instructions to wire the money for closing costs to a Bank of America in Florida; she sent more than $78,000 to the account of a shipping company based in Florida.

In the course of the police investigation, Carrier said that he contacted the company but is not sure of its legitimacy.

“The company president says that he was contacted by someone wishing to purchase shipping containers from him ... approximately $30,000 worth,” Carrier said. 

But the company president told police that on the day the deal was to go through, he instead received $78,000. 

“He was then contacted by the customer and was told that the customer wanted double the amount of containers,” Carrier said. “He said he couldn’t provide it.”

Carrier said that the company president then reported that he was told to send the customer the difference, since they had paid double. 

“He did wire out money to his salespeople to cover the initial sale, but then when he went to go back to it to wire the difference, he found the account was frozen, so the scammer never got the money,” Carrier said. “Unfortunately, our victim here lost about $30,000.”

He said the investigation would likely be turned over to the FBI.

“This is the same type of scam ... when someone calls and says (you have) won a lottery in Africa. Pay us the $5,000 tax and we’ll send you the million. This is the same exact thing, but in a more elaborate manner,” he said. “Anyone could get caught with this.”

The hacker had simply changed one letter on the email addresses, “which you never notice until after the fact.”

Carrier said that to be careful, he recommends doing as many of these types of transactions over the phone or in person as possible.