LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — A mom and her daughter in Lakewood are sharing their story to help warn others after they were scammed out of almost $200,000 while trying to buy a townhome.
“At some point the chain of email got hacked. I started getting fraud emails and I didn’t realize they were fraud emails,” Vicki Ragle, the victim of the scam, said.
Ragle and her daughter, Sarah, went through the whole purchasing process together and both said the fraud emails posing as the lender, realtor and title company were nearly identical.
“All I could think is now I’m homeless and broke. I’m 69 years old and now I’m broke and homeless,” Ragle said.
On Wednesday, two days before they were supposed to close, Ragle said the people, who she believed at the time were the title company, requested the $196,662.81 due to close. The email also included they required the funds to be remitted 48 hours before closing.
“We were supposed to close on a Friday, then on Wednesday they told me they needed the funds in 48 hours or it won’t happen. I said, ‘OK, I will call in an hour and we can do that,'” Ragle said. “They emailed back stating, ‘Don’t call ’cause I’ll be in a closing, but here’s the information.'”
Ragle said the money was sent, then Friday she and Sarah headed to the title company to finish the closing.
“We went to closing on Friday, everyone was laughing and excited. We signed acres of papers, then the title lady said, ‘Let me check your funds,'” Ragle said. “The title lady said, ‘Where did you send the funds to?’ And I said, ‘I sent them to you,’ and she said, ‘We don’t have them.'”
Ragle and her daughter said they realized at that moment the money was gone. Right away, her daughter reported this all to Lakewood Police along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.
“I walked out of there and I threw up,” Ragle said, and Sarah chimed in that she had to carry her mother out of the title company.
Ragle had been a middle school teacher for 42 years and just retired in July, and all this money was her entire life savings. She said on top of the money taken by the fraudsters, they also had paid earnest money for the home and bought all new furniture.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do but we will make it. We will figure it out somehow,” Ragle said.
A friend of Sarah’s started a GoFundMe to help get the two ladies back on their feet and hopefully move forward following this huge loss.
“I’ve been saving for a while, that’s all I had,” said Ragle, a single mom of two.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, this type of scam is called business email compromise, and they said it’s not uncommon.
Billions of dollars go out every year in this scheme. Billions nationwide especially in real estate transactions. Investigators say scammers take advantage of one of the people involved in the transaction. They take advantage and spoof or fake an email account from interested party in order to get the true bank account changed to one they can control. CBI has found that where the money ends up is yet another victim known as a money mule-working unbeknownst for the fraudsters. CBI works to capture or freeze as much of the funds as possible so they can be returned to the original victim. As for tips, never change a bank account from instructions sent to you via email, text or fax. Always verify over the phone with the originating party.Colorado Bureau of Investigation
The FBI also said in 2022 in Colorado, it received 504 complaints of business email compromise, costing victims nearly $54 million.
The FBI passed along some tips to help protect yourself:
- Be careful with what information you share online or on social media. By openly sharing things like pet names, schools you attended, links to family members, and your birthday, you can give a scammer all the information they need to guess your password or answer your security questions.
- Don’t click on anything in an unsolicited email or text message asking you to update or verify account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own (don’t use the one a potential scammer is providing), and call the company to ask if the request is legitimate.
- Carefully examine the email address, URL, and spelling used in any correspondence. Scammers use slight differences to trick your eye and gain your trust.
- Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
- Set up two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication on any account that allows it, and never disable it.
- Verify payment and purchase requests in person if possible or by calling the person to make sure it is legitimate. You should verify any change in account number or payment procedures with the person making the request.
- Be especially wary if the requestor is pressing you to act quickly.
Lakewood Police said this is an open and active investigation but they haven’t had a case like this before.