The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has announced the following:
The MCSO has been notified of a new scam hitting one of the Florida Keys’ most lucrative markets — real estate.
Scammers are electronically hacking or otherwise finding ways to convincingly pose as actual real estate agents. The criminals convince their victims, typically people in the property market, that the victim’s real offer has been accepted and to wire sizeable amounts of money in order to close the deal.
Tens of thousands of dollars or more can be lost to such fraud. In one case reported to the Sheriff’s Office, one potential victim narrowly escaped being ripped off given their bank was closed at the time and their actual real estate agent called back. The actual real estate agent reported that multiple clients had reported getting fraudulent calls over the course of a weekend.
If you are in the property market, protect yourself by always calling your real estate agent to confirm any deal, especially any closing details you might receive via email.
One scheme involves thieves emailing new wire instructions to close a real estate transaction.
Always be wary and very suspicious of emails or phone calls with supposed new, updated, revised or “corrected” money transfer instructions. Always double-check with your real estate agent before moving money.
This fraud comes at a time when scammers are posing as legitimate local law enforcement officers and using real police station phone numbers. In those scams, the thieves are falsely telling residents they either missed jury duty or have a warrant for their arrest or some other fake story. In those cases, residents were told to buy prepaid gift cards and to give the numbers over the phone. They were falsely told that if they paid the scammers using the prepaid gift cards their made-up legal troubles would be over.
All these cases are indicative of the savviness displayed by modern criminals. If you know a real estate agent or someone who is currently looking to buy property in Monroe County, please share this notice.
Always double check with actual businesses, police, utilities, insurers - anyone - when sending money, particularly when you are reached by phone or e-mail.