(WSVN) - Talk about going from one extreme to another. You walk into a closing, thinking you are about to be a homeowner. A few seconds later, you are told you have been hacked and all your money to buy the home is gone. It’s a nightmare happening to more and more South Floridians and it’s why we have help me howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you want to know what it means to spend your life serving your country, meet Richard Zimmelman.

Richard Zimmelman: “Well I served for 33 years. It was awesome. It was fantastic.”

Richard started in the Air Force in the medical field, he was in charge of deployment and was a commander. Now after 33 years, he is a retiree…

Richard Zimmelman: “It’s very bitter sweet because you love it.”

Richard wanted to do two things: take nice, long vacations and buy a condo to call home in South Florida.

Richard Zimmelman: “I found a place in Sky Lake. It had a great view and it was very comfortable.”

Richard put down $9,500 and then a few weeks later, using money he had saved in his militiary career, was ready to pay the other $86,000. He then got the instructions

Richard Zimmelman: “We communicated through email, and one of the emails was wire instructions.”

Richard says there were about 35 emails, then the person claiming to be the title agent sent a message….

Richard Zimmelman: “Identical email address — identical — saying, ‘We’re having an issue with this bank account. We want you to wire the funds to a different account.'”

Richard wired the $86,000 to the bank account as the title company’s email instructed him to do, and then…

Richard Zimmelman: “When I went to the closing, the attorney met me at the door and she said, ‘Did you wire the money?’ What are you talking about? We communicated 30-35 times with emails back and forth.”

Richard says it appears someone had hacked into the title company’s email account, and diverted the money to another bank account, meaning Richard had lost his $86,000…

Richard Zimmelman: “I’m extremely hurt, angry.”

Richard asked the agent for her title insurance. She gave him a policy that had expired, he then told the agency he was going to hire an attorney to sue them. Their response…..

Richard Zimmelman: “‘If you go to an attorney, I’m going to get an attorney and it’s not going to be nice!'”

And that’s where it stands today. Howard, clearly the title company got hacked and scammed. Richard got scammed. Can he get his $86,000 back?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes. This scam should be well known to people in the closing business, and the law requires the closing agent to act in a prudent manner — meaning they have to put in safety measures to block the scammers. Since there’s no evidence those safety measures were in place, in this case, the title company — meaning their insurance company — has to reimburse Richard the $86,000.”

First of all, North Miami Police told Richard the scammers were a group of Chinese nationals operating out of New York. Richard’s case is under investigation.

The owner of the title agency told us this was upsetting to her, that she will turn over her correct insurance company information to Richard so he can file a claim to get his $86,000 back.

We wanted to ask her about the security of her transactions, but her first answer was, “It’s confidential, thank you,” and that was the end of the conversation.

Howard Finkelstein: “This could happen to anybody, so how do you avoid it? Try not to wire money. Just hand the closing agent a cashier’s check in person, and if you have to wire money, call the agent at a number you know is correct to get the wiring instructions.”

Richard Zimmelman: “We are very grateful for Channel 7.”

Richard wasn’t able to buy the condo, but hopefully if the insurance company returns his $86,000, he will get another one later…

Richard Zimmelman: “Yeah there is finally a claim open after the delays. They are telling me that the investigation can take months.”

From the dream of buying a home to losing the cost of the condo, what a nightmare. Now this scam is going around because it’s very easy for the online crooks to monitor a closing agent’s emails and then jump in — be careful.

A problem got you wired? Ready for a closing? Contact us. We won’t mortgage your future. Just insure you get what you are entitled to.

Richard did end up having to forfeight the $9,500 deposit he put on the condo because he didn’t close on the unit.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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