Florida couple loses about $18K in business email compromise scheme

Americans have lost more than $43B to home closing wire fraud between June 2016 and June 2021

Americans have lost billions of dollars to cyber thieves spoofing email addresses to appear as if they were sent from legitimate title companies.

In the end, the victims discover the wire transactions were part of a scheme that cost them every dime.

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Experts call the wire fraud trap “business email compromise.”

According to the FBI, homeowners and investors lost more than $43 billion dollars between June 2016 and June 2021 in both domestic and international email scams.

Tom Cronkright, co-founder of security software company CertifID, told News 6 “it’s just easy money” for the imposters to infiltrate an email chain and redirect funds with a simple lie.

“This is big business, big enterprise,” Cronkright told News 6. ”They’re just not working on one transaction, it’s a pipeline of transactions.”

Aimee and Michael Furle shared their story with News 6 after losing just under $18,000 at a closing in September.

The couple received an email that appeared to follow the email chain from their title company only to discover they wired the funds to a bank account in Texas that had been set up by an imposter.

Aimee told News 6 she contacted her bank, Wells Fargo, as soon as she was told the title company had not received the funds.

Furle said a bank employee confirmed the funds existed but that they could not get it back.

“If I can get a hold of the property owner’s email, I can infiltrate the transaction,“ Cronkright told News 6. ”If you’re not moving quickly within 24 to 48 hours, the chance of success (to recall the funds) is minimal.”

In a statement to News 6, Wells Fargo said in part, “A wire transfer deposits money directly into another person’s account and is typically irreversible, even if fraud is involved. We reviewed this case and confirmed that our team took the correct actions.”

CertifID provides security software for 300 title companies in all 50 states to make sure the transfer of funds is not intercepted by imposters, as was the case with the Furles.

“We ultimately help title companies safely transfer money in and safely disperse money out when there is a real estate closing,” Cronkright said.

If you have any questions regarding real estate transactions, email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or go to www.CertifID.com.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.