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North Texas Man Has Warning for Potential Homebuyers After Being Defrauded

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An Irving man was defrauded out of more than $40,000 while trying to close on his new home -- now he wants to warn other potential homebuyers.

It's a scheme where hackers infiltrate legitimate email conversations and send fake money wiring instructions.

Manish Sharma spent years saving up the down payment for his family's dream home.

The first-time homebuyer moved from out of state, and looked at more than 40 houses, before choosing one in Irving.

"I like this place, it's warm, sunny, you've got good weather, got a lot of friends here, so I really wanted to settle down and it has got very good school district. I got my job," Sharma said.

Three days before closing, Sharma got an email seemingly from the title company. It included wiring instructions for the down payment and costs. Sharma followed instructions, then showed up in person for closing, as planned.

"When I asked for the keys from the title company, they said, 'Where is the money? Where is the closing amount?' I said, 'I already wired you.' He said, 'No, we never got it.' I said, 'This is not possible because I wired you.'" Sharma said.

But one email had turned his dream into a nightmare. It was from an imposter who'd created a new email address similar to the one used by a legitimate agent of the title company.

"I wired the money to someone whom I'd never intended to," Sharma said.

The money went straight to a criminal.

"I was devastated. My whole body became numb. I had a bone chill. That's all I can say," Sharma said. "Every dollar I saved for buying this house, I lost it in just one go."

Unfortunately, this type of real estate wire fraud is growing, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"Oftentimes these wire fraud scams involve a last-minute change in the payment instructions. So they'll say, 'Hey, here are the new instructions, you actually need to send the money here,' and buyers will comply," said Lesley Murchow of the National Association of Realtors.

"They look legitimate. They're sent at the right time, and the email address is unless you're looking very closely, they look like they've been sent by a party you've been communicating with all along," Murchow said.

Sharma said this has impacted his entire life.

"I couldn't sleep for five nights, six nights. I couldn't eat. I couldn't drink. I lost all my peace," Sharma said.

He had to find more money to close on the house which devastated him financially. Although the receiving bank rescued 60% of his money but so far, the rest is lost.

"So now I'm like living paycheck-to-paycheck. That's the whole situation now," Sharma said.

Now he's hoping his experience will be a warning to others.

The FBI says if you fall victim to one of these scams, immediately contact your bank and ask them to look into where the transfer was sent then notify your local FBI field office as well as the agency's internet crime complaint center.

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