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As real estate transactions have moved online, so have scammers who hope to intercept money that’s meant for down payments and funding loans. According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, nearly 14,000 people fell victim to real estate/rental fraud in 2020, which equated to a loss of more than $213 million.

Real estate transactions attract scammers (outsiders and dishonest insiders) for several reasons. First, there’s a lot of money moving around (the average mortgage loan for newly built houses in the U.S. is now $370,000). Plus, there are typically multiple parties involved who often don’t know one another and haven’t worked together before. Now, add to that the stress and urgency coming from all sides: The professionals want to close the deal and get paid, while buyers want to sign for their loan and move into their new homes.