A retired Colorado teacher and her daughter lost nearly $200,000 after scammers posed as a title company in a townhouse sale.
Vicki Ragle, 69, said she was in the process of buying a long-term townhouse with her daughter Sarah when she learned they had been the victim of wire fraud.
“We went to closing on Friday, everyone was laughing and excited. We signed acres of papers,” Ragle told Fox 31 Denver.
One of the workers then went to check on the couple’s funds and that’s when the party stopped.
“The headline lady said, ‘Where did you send the funds? And I said, ‘I sent them to you’ and she said, ‘We don’t have them,'” Ragle recalled.
The funds were sent to an account not affiliated with the title company after the email chain was hacked by unknown scammers, Ragle told the Denver-based news station.
“At some point the email chain was hacked and I started getting scam emails, I didn’t recognize them as scam emails,” Ragle recalled.
Ragle, who was a college teacher for 42 years before retiring last July, said she lost both the townhouse and her life savings.
“Listen Vickie, not only are you not getting the house, you’re not getting anything,” Ragle told the outlet.
In an email sent to Ragle by the ruthless hackers on March 1, the unsuspecting mother of two was told of a quick response and full payment of almost $200,000 within two days.
“I have gone ahead and prepared closing documents and closing statements with a closing date of Friday 3/3,” the email reads, via Fox 31 Denver. “Please find attached the final closing statement. The amount due at closing is $198,662.81. Polite reminder, as we require funds to be remitted 48 hours prior to closing. pay the closing funds so that I can transmit the title instructions for your shares.”
Upon hearing the news of the loss of her life savings, Ragle collapsed.
“All I could think is now I’m homeless and broke. I’m 69 and now I’m broke and homeless,” Ragle said.
“I think we got out of there and I actually threw up,” Ragle said, wiping tears from his eyes.
“I mean, I had to pretty much get you out of the title company,” said Sarah, who is a nurse in Colorado.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) called the scam a “business email compromise” where “scammers spoof or tamper with an interested party’s email account in order to get the real bank account changed to one they can control”.
The CBI says it “works to capture or freeze as many funds as possible so they can be returned to the original victim.”
The CBI also suggests never changing bank accounts based on text or email instructions unless confirmed by a phone call.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do if you want to know the truth. I don’t know,” Ragle said before telling his daughter, “We’ll get there, we’ll get it figured out somehow.”
A GoFundMe set up by one of Sarah’s coworkers says the couple lost everything.
“Recently, Sarah and her retired mum tried to buy a house where they could reside for the long term, but were cheated out of all their savings. When Sarah and her mum realized what had happened, it was too late to get their money back,” the page read.
The page raised $66,800 of the target goal of $200,000 on Friday morning.
“In 2022 in Colorado, the FBI received 504 business compromise complaints, costing victims nearly $54 million,” the FBI said in a statement obtained by Fox 31 Denver.