Sunday, September 15, 2019

Scam Alert for Home Buyers and Sellers

In the past 6 months, we’ve had about 10 of these cases, so if you’re buying or selling a home, listen up!

Let’s assume you’re buying a brand new home here in the glorious land of Southlake. You’ve worked hand in hand with your realtor, your mortgage company, and your title company for the last few months. You’ve built a rapport with them. You expect an email or two a week, whether they need another pay stub or your last 6 months of bank statements. The purchase date is rapidly approaching, the movers are locked in, and all of the sudden, you receive an email allegedly from your title company that says “we actually need the down payment today, so please wire it immediately to this bank account.”

You do that, because I mean, the email came from the title company, right? Nope. Here’s what’s happening.

Hackers are finding a way to get into the emails of realtors/mortgage companies/title companies to send you these bogus requests. These guys are GOOD, and as you can probably guess, the down payment on a house here in Southlake isn’t a mere $20K.

If you’re in the process of buying or selling and you receive an email request for money, call your mortgage or title company immediately before sending off funds. Double check your emails and look for slightly off verbiage and misspellings. Look at the email address it came from—in our cases, the suspect email was one or two letters off the regular email address of your trusted contact.

And if you’re a mortgage or title company, please stop using public Wifi to communicate, because that’s how they’re getting in! We’re doing the best we can on our end, but we need your help!

The Southlake Police Department Warns of IRS Phone Scam

The Southlake Police Department is asking residents to be vigilant about phone and email scams that use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a lure. The scammers will attempt to contact individuals by phone or email. The fraudulent call goes something like this: “This is an officer from the Internal Revenue Service. We have been trying to reach you. This call is an official and final notice from the Internal Revenue Service. The reason for the call is to inform you that we have filed a lawsuit against you. For more information call us immediately.” 

At least one Southlake resident has reported receiving one of these fraudulent phone calls. They did the right thing by not returning the phone call and notifying the Southlake Police Department immediately.

It is important to remind our citizens that the IRS will never contact you by phone or email ‘out of the blue.’ If you owe money to the IRS they will send you a letter by certified mail. Police Chief James Brandon says, “Being informed is the best defense and we want to make every effort to protect our citizens from becoming victims of the IRS scam.”

Here are some important tips for citizens from the IRS:

  • The IRS will never initiate contact with individuals by phone or email to request personal or financial information.
  • The IRS will only initiate contact by certified mail.
  • The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access.
  • Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
  • The IRS will never request immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. (*Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.)

In some cases, after threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers will often hang up and call back pretending to be from the local police department or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The caller ID often supports their claim because the scammers are able to mask the real number they are calling from with one that appears to be from the IRS.

Another big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and are urging immediate payment. The IRS wants to make it clear that this is not how they operate. They also urge individuals to hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or the IRS at IRS.gov, phone 1.800.829.1040 or contact TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.

Frauds and Scams Targeting Seniors

Southlake’s Department of Public Safety is providing some vital information about various “scams” to the members of our senior community.  We hope the information provided will help prevent you or a loved one from becoming a victim.  Additionally, we hope you will share this information with your family and friends so they will not become a likely target.

One scam that has been circulating for many years is known as the “grandparent scam.” It involves a young person calling a senior claiming to be the individual’s grandson.  The caller typically has enough information to convince the individual that they are indeed their grandson.  The caller tells the victim a wild story of being in desperate trouble such as: they are travelling and got robbed, or were in an accident etc. to try to get the person on the other end of the phone to send money.  By the time the person realizes what has happened, their money is long gone.

It’s a grandparent’s natural instinct to want to help a loved one, especially a grandchild, but resist the initial “tug-at-the-heart-strings” urge and do some concrete checking first. Contact other relatives to check on the grandson and if necessary contact authorities to verify the caller’s claims.

The State Attorney warns of various scams targeting seniors. Here are a few of the Top Ten:

  • Easy Credit.  These ads promise that you can get a loan no matter how bad your credit is. It carries high advance fees and is a “credit disaster.”
  • Phishing: This involves trying to get valuable information from you like your social security number, credit card information or bank account number.  Never give information like this to strangers either by phone or email.
  • Nigerian Fraud: A person allegedly fleeing his or her country claims to have lots of money and just needs your help transferring to your account.  They claim you will reap a windfall.  It is a scam. Hang up or immediately delete the email.
  • Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks.  It looks like the real thing but it’s likely a forgery. Again, never allow a stranger access your accounts or money for any reason.
  • Home Repairs.  Beware of unsolicited door-to-door home improvement offers. Especially, if the individual says, “It’s a one-time, today only” offer. It’s typically a rip-off.

Signs to watch for:

  • Callers requesting money, either in person or wire transfers.
  • Callers claiming to be in Canada or other foreign country.
  • Callers insisting on secrecy.
  • Callers putting unrelenting pressure on you.
  • Callers with unfamiliar voices.
  • Vague or elusive callers who get personal details wrong.
  • Emails from anyone you don’t know.

Southlake DPS Police Chief Stephen Mylett says, “We want to make sure our citizens are safe and protected in every way.  We work to help keep our citizens and communities safe but these types of predators try to work ‘under the radar’ by calling or emailing you directly.” We are here to help you and want you to be aware of the typical warning signs, Mylett added.

Southlake DPS Officers will also be giving a presentation on various other scams that target our seniors, at the Southlake Senior Center on July 10th from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.  The center is located at 307 Parkwood Drive. Contact our Community Initiatives Officer Renni Burt at (817) 748-8349 for more information.

You can also find additional information by checking out the Senior Texans page on the State Attorney General website   https://www.oag.state.tx.us/elder/index.shtml