SAN ANTONIO - Born one day apart, Jayna Gibbs and her husband fell in love and got married at 28. But this last summer her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her and their two daughters distraught.
Family and friends gifted Gibbs $25,000 dollars following her husband's death. She planned to use the money as a down payment on her new home.
"Losing him, my best friend, was hard anyway, and then people gave this money in his honor and memory -- and for someone to have stolen it -- it's very hurtful," Gibbs said.
A week before closing, Gibbs got an email requesting closing funds be wired to an escrow account.
"It looked exactly like the emails that came from the escrow assistant. It looked like it has their logo. It says Presidio Title, and it has the escrow officer's name," Gibbs said.
Gibbs had no concerns about the validity of the email and subsequently wired $25,500 dollars as instructed.
When she showed up to closing a week later at Presidio Title, everyone was surprised when they figured out what had happened.
"I got a phone call and they were saying we don't have a wire from you," Gibbs said.
Gibbs doesn't know who requested the funds or where they ended up, but looking back at her emails, she noticed a wire fraud alert from her title company that she overlooked initially.
"I wish they had either called me or specifically sent out a disclosure saying this happened," Gibbs said.
Some title companies have insurance for this type of fraud. When we inquired with Presidio Title Company founder, Don Walker, he said he hadn't yet filed the claim and didn't know whether this type of fraud would be covered.
Walker could not say with certainty whether Presidio Title uses encryption to protect private information, but Paul Duran with the U.S. Secret Service said even companies that do use encryption need to be careful.
"Your IT defenses are only as good as the employees that are monitoring and clicking on items," Duran said.
Information is generally compromised through phishing emails. Duran said this type of fraud is on the rise and is impacting more than just real estate transactions.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim is practicing good cyber hygiene.
"Being very scrutinous of emails coming in, make sure that in the emails that you get in the attachments or the links that are in them are verified," Duran said.
If you do become a victim, the sooner you report it, the better.
"It really needs to be probably between 24 and 48 hours," Duran said.
The less time they have to cash out accounts and get the money out of the country, the greater the chance investigators will be able to track down the money.
by April Molina