By Keith Eldridge, KOMO
TACOMA, Wash. (KOMO) — A young couple about to become first-time home buyers had their dreams dashed when scammers swiped their $12,000 closing costs.
Serenity Isom said it was all the money they had.
"I'm only 20 years old," said Serenity. "He's only 21. We were going to finally own our home but we fell for this stupid scam."
"We were going to finally own our home. But we fell for this stupid scam." Serenity Isom on losing $12,000 by being fooled with fake emails that had all of the correct loan information including closing date. It's all the money they had. 5pm #komonews pic.twitter.com/cArk1rABF1— Keith Eldridge (@KeithKOMO4) February 3, 2018
Serenity said it was just a modest home in Tacoma, but it was going to be "their" home. The family with a young boy got an email instructing them to wire the $12,000 closing costs to complete the deal. "We were just so excited that we sent the money over," said Serenity. "We didn't think twice about it."
The emails had all the right information including the closing date. But Serenity realized it was all a scam when she contacted the loan officer. "I called him and like 'Hey the money came in.' and he goes, 'Oh, what money?' and my heart just dropped."
She says the bank traced the wired money to a branch in Florida and to a man who had already taken out $9,000. "They couldn't arrest him or anything because right now because it's a 'he-said-she-said' kind of thing, and he's taken the money out so it's gone."
"It's heartbreaking," said David Quinlan of the Better Business Bureau. ".. .It puts a fire in my stomach." Quinlan said emails can be easily hacked and responses forged. In this case by simply adding the word "gmail" to the address.
"Take a deep breath," said Quinlan. "Relax. If you get one of these emails, obviously contact your Realtor first to make sure it's authentic."
The Isoms aren't alone. This is a scam that is sweeping the country. Connie Thompson of KOMO News has done several stories on it. Her reports say often it's the emails of the mortgage or title companies that are hacked. But those companies told Serenity they believe it was he email that was hacked.
"I don't know what to do anymore," said Serenity. "I'm just lost." She is hoping the bank, mortgage company and title company will help get at least some of the money, but she's doubtful. "I just don't want this to happen to anybody else."
The couple has set up a Gofundme page.