WILLIAMSON COUNTY (KXAN) — For one Round Rock family, almost half a million dollars of their hard-earned money disappeared in an instant, but this story has a rare happy ending.
“We are really lucky,” said Jim Jarrett. “And the only explanation I have is God. He decided we were going to be the lucky ones.”
Jim and Cheryl Jarrett said they worked hard for three decades to pay off a mortgage. “We sold our home of 29 years. We had enough cash to be able to buy the next home,” Jim explained.
He said, a week before closing, he received an email from the title company about wiring them money. “It was supported that this was the title company by my realtor,” Jim told KXAN.
When they went to meet with the company in person to close, Jim said, “They said what are you doing here? Then they said we need your money. We said we already wire it to you. And they said no, we received an email from you saying you weren’t going to be here until 3 in the afternoon.”
Turns out, the email Jim received came from a scammer, and the Jarretts believe the scammer managed to trick him, the title company and the realtor by sending all of them fake emails.
When they got the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office involved, detectives tracked down the fraudulent account.
Detective David Hancock said, “Since we were provided the account number as well as the financial institute that was used to make the wire transfer to, we contacted that institute, asked to confirm this transaction occurred, and they did. There was still a large sum of money in the account.”
They obtained a seizure warrant to retrieve that money.
Jim described the moment he found out. “I’m like speechless, crying on the phone. They must’ve thought I was a nut. We were going to live without $471,000 that we had managed to pay off a home for 29 years.”
Hancock said, “I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve heard this amount of large sum being recovered.”
The detective said real estate fraud is on the rise. “Fraud is the most popular type of crime right now, and the unfortunate thing it, it’s pretty hard to solve.”
The Jarretts said after comparing emails they received from the scammer with the ones the title company received, they discovered a small warning sign.
He said, the scammer changed a “W” into two “V’s” in one of their email addresses, so a quick glance wouldn’t easily catch the difference.
He also said when you receive an email, instead of just looking at the name, you should actually click on the name to reveal the sender’s address to double check that the message is from the person who’s supposed to be sending you that email.
He added, if you’re buying a home, “Make a physical contact with the title company and understand what their communication systems are.”
According to the FBI, nearly $150 million was lost to real estate scams last year, and they’ve grown tremendously – up 1,000% since 2015.