KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A dream home is turning into a nightmare for a metro woman and her fiancé. After signing papers and even getting the keys, money they’d wired for a down payment vanished.
It was supposed to be a new beginning, as Matt Stetson and his fiancée Hannah Beatty got keys to their new home.
Stetson is moving to Kansas City from Nebraska to make his home here with Beatty and her son. It’s a fresh start for her, too, after surviving past domestic abuse.
“We wanted to be able to have our family all together,” Beatty said.
But just after moving in a few belongings, the unthinkable happened. The couple learned the $40,000 they thought went to the bank and title company at closing had disappeared.
“I have never owned a home, and this was a big, big tragedy for us,” Beatty said.
In the flood of emails before closing day, Matt got a message from what he thought was the bank. In reality, a hacker spoofed the lending agent’s email, insisting the down payment should now be sent by wire transfer.
“They added just one letter to each of the email addresses from the lender and title company and posed as those people with just the next instruction you were supposed to do and almost duplicating an email that did come from our office saying bring a cashier’s check,” said Heather Chatlos, agent with Heartland Real Estate Services.
By the time the problem was caught, the couple’s money had been sent, and the scammers cashed in.
The Federal Trade Commission says between 2015 and 2017, mortgage wire fraud scams shot up 1100%, costing consumers more than $1 billion.
Chatlos thinks the problem’s spiking again because of the current red-hot housing market.
“I’d suggest to people double check, call again. Actually call. Don’t rely on the emails and even when you’re going to wire, call the institution you’re wiring to, double check the numbers. Double check routing information because if they don’t match, that’ll tell you right there this is not right,” Chatlos said.
Chatlos started a GoFundMe page, hoping to recover Beatty and Stetson’s lost money so they can keep their dream home. The couple is thankful for the support and hope homebuyers will learn from their experience, which can easily happen to anyone.
“No matter what the outcome is, I know that if I can help one person, that it’s worth it,” Beatty said.
The couple’s real estate agent and lender are now waiving their commissions, and the sellers are lowering theirs, trying to help if they can scrape enough money together to still buy the home. If you’d like to help the couple, you can donate here.