It's a nightmare scenario for any homebuyer: the day before closing, a scammer manages to trick you into wiring your down payment to an offshore account. You lose your hard-earned money and you lose the house, and there's no way you can get either one back.
That's how some criminals have adapted the common "business email compromise" scam – so-named because it used to almost exclusively target businesses – to focus on individuals, especially people who are involved in a pending real estate transaction.
CNBC spoke with two victims of this type of crime who wished to remain anonymous. They were devastated to lose six-figure sums, their dream homes and in one case, the bulk of the individual's life savings.
And it's a crime that is growing, according to Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy for email security company Proofpoint, which tracks cybercrimes perpetrated over email. Kalember has observed attempts at this type of crime have risen to a level 14 times higher than last year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also warned several times this year that email compromise schemes are spiking, which includes this type of real estate fraud.