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Consumer Group Launches to Fight Real-Estate Wire Fraud

Joint Base San Antonio

WASHINGTON - The new Coalition to Stop Real Estate Fraud launches this month to make more people aware of the dangers of what it says is a national epidemic of real-estate fraud. Buying a home is a complicated process, and the group said scammers pretend to be professionals involved in the transaction. After a victim wires money to the wrong person, it is rarely recovered, resulting in thousands of dollars of losses for the buyer.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., is offering his support to the group to fight what's become a national problem. "The victims are across the country, including my own home state of Alabama," Jones said. "One of my constituents in Alabama lost $250,000 to this scam; another lost $12,000."

FBI records show in 2018, 11,300 Americans lost almost $150 million to fraudulent real-estate wire transfers. According to the coalition, that's a 166% increase in the amount of money lost compared to 2017. Tom Linehan, an executive vice president at BankUnited, which supports the anti-fraud group, said it's important for home buyers not to rush through such an important transaction. "If you're ready to buy your home and spend your money, you should be extra vigilant and suspicious, and plan on confirming and verifying everything," Linehan said. "We want to make sure consumers know the risks and the urgency of this problem."

The coalition introduced a digital information campaign in three cities: Birmingham, Ala., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Virginia Beach, Va. Since 2016, these areas have all seen major increases in first-time home buyers, who can be particularly susceptible to the scams. Information about wire fraud and what to do if you think you've been targeted is available at stopwirefraud.org.

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