N4T Investigators: Growing scam costs Tucson $1.5 million - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Growing scam costs Tucson $1.5 million

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation says a quickly growing scam has cost Southern Arizonans more than $1.5 million dollars in the last year alone.

"Anyone surrounding a real estate transaction is a target," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Martin Hellmer.

News Four Tucson Investigators first highlighted the growing scam last year.

It's called a BEC - or Business Email Compromise - scam. 

During a BEC scam officials say hackers get into a business's computer system and then contact customers with new payment instructions.

"As far as an internet enabled crime goes, this is far and away the most prevalent crime currently affecting the state of Arizona. We've seen it grow by more than 270 percent," said Hellmer.

Dorothy Hayden was a victim of this type of scam.

Hayden says hackers targeted her while she was home shopping. That's when her dream home turned into a nightmare.

Hayden says what happened, is that during the closing process someone hacked into either her realtor or title company's computer system and started posing as her title agent.

Using the title agent's email address, the hacker then sent Hayden fraudulent wiring instructions to their bank account.

In a flash Hayden lost $50,000.

"I'm still in shock that the entire thing happened. The email I got, it was labeled with her name and the title ," said Hayden

Hayden's bank was able to get her money back, but other Arizona residents haven't been so lucky.

The FBI says BEC scams have cost Tucsonans $1,458,823, people living in Sahuarita $33,504, and Oro Valley residents $2,550.

Officials say the biggest targets are real estate companies, title companies, and anyone buying or selling a home.

"We encourage folks out there in the community to be highly suspicious of emails asking them to send money to a new bank account," said Hellmer.

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