A retired teacher and her daughter were swindled out of nearly $200,000 while buying a Colorado home after hackers hijacked their email conversation with the real merchants.
Vicki Ragle, 69, was in the process of buying a Lakewood townhouse for herself and her daughter Sarah with her life savings when scammers tricked her into handing over the huge sum.
Vicki had been exchanging legitimate emails with the lender, real estate agent, and title company, though it’s unclear how the hackers were able to intercept them.
Two days before they were supposed to close, Vicki received an email purporting to be from the title company requesting the $196,662.81 to close.
She duly paid the sum in full, only learning about the scam two days later when they went to the title company’s office to complete the purchase, where staff told them they had not received the cash.
The FBI has now launched an investigation into the incident in February along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Lakewood Police.
Vicki Ragle, pictured with her daughter Sarah, said: “All I could think about is now I’m homeless and broke.” I am 69 years old and now broke and homeless.’
A fundraiser to help the Ragles recoup their losses had raised nearly $15,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
‘We went to the closing on Friday, everyone was laughing and excited. We signed acres of papers, then the title keeper said, ‘Let me check your funds,’ said Vicki KDVR.
‘The title lady said: ‘Where did you send the funds?’ And I said, ‘I sent them to you,’ and she said, ‘We don’t have them.’
She tearfully added: “All I could think about is now I’m homeless and broke. I am 69 years old and now broke and homeless.’
Sarah Ragle had to get her mother out of title company officers after they realized they had been scammed
In an email to the Ragles two days before the deal was to close, the scammer posed as the title company and said they had “prepared the closing documents.”
‘The amount owed at closing is $198,662.81. Polite reminder as we require funds to be sent 48 hours prior to closing,” the scammers wrote. The Ragles were not fazed by the messages due to the previous conversation with the royal staff.
Vicki added: ‘We were supposed to close on a Friday, then on Wednesday they told me they need the funds in 48 hours or it won’t happen. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll call in an hour and we can do it.’ They emailed me back saying, ‘Don’t call because I’ll be in a lockdown, but here’s the info.
‘At some point, the email chain was hacked. I started getting scam emails and didn’t realize they were scam emails.
After the money was paid, the Ragles even received a reply to ‘confirm receipt of funds’.
One of the emails sent by the scammers, who were able to infiltrate the email chain with the actual team working on the sale and then request the money.
Sarah Ragle, a nurse, with her mom Vicki, a retired schoolteacher who lost her life savings through the same
Vicki spent 42 years as a high school teacher, only retiring in July. The money for the house was her life savings. She had also bought new furniture for the house.
TO GoFundMe Page it has now been started for the Ragles and had raised $14,616 of its $200,000 goal to make the money back by Wednesday afternoon.
Victoria Detlefs, the friend who launched the page, wrote: “Recently, Sarah and her retired mother tried to buy a house they could live in long-term, but ran out of all their savings.
‘By the time Sarah and her mother realized what had happened, it was too late to get their money back. Sarah and her mother were heartbroken and also lost the house they had hoped to buy.
‘Despite all of this, Sarah has continued to show up in times of need for others, providing a loving helping hand.
I’m raising funds in hopes that Sarah and her mom can ‘get back’ some of what was lost and in hopes of showing support for someone who has only supported and cared for others. Anything Helps Thank you for your kindness.’
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said billions of dollars are lost each year to “commercial email compromise” scams.
Fraudsters “take advantage of and impersonate or spoof an email account of the interested party in order to switch the real bank account to one they can control,” the CBI said.
The FBI said it received 504 commercial email compromise complaints in Colorado last year, costing victims nearly $54 million.