Gresham homebuyer nearly lost $82,000 in escrow wire transfer scam using a fake email

Thanks to the dedication of a Gresham Police Department detective, thousands of dollars stolen in a real estate scam were recovered.

In 2017, a Gresham resident was in the process of purchasing a home. During the course of the proceedings, the home buyer received a legitimate looking email with wire transfer instructions from an unknown source acting as the title company. The victim's escrow money was wired to the fraudulent bank account, totaling almost $82,000.

The scammer had set up a bank account using a Chinese passport and credit card issued from a bank in China. They used a California address that was not valid.

Police say these type of scammers are difficult to locate, and many times are overseas. Usually the money is permanently lost. But Gresham Det. Adam Wright worked diligently on the case for the past two years, and the money was recovered.

Wright froze the account and wrote a search warrant. He recovered the first $63,870 about three weeks after the theft, and helped secure the remaining money in February of this year.

"The detective really did an outstanding job and went above and beyond for the victim," said Officer Ben Costigan, a spokesman for the department.

Gresham Police warn that scammers will hack into a title company or lender's email server to search for upcoming real estate closings. The scammer then emails the buyer or financial institution with bogus wire transfer instructions related to a particular real estate loan closing.

The department suggests that prior to wiring any sum of money, contact the title company or lender by other means to verify the money is going to the right place.

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