Retired pastor and wife lose $130K for home to wire fraud

The Missouri couple planned to spend the money on a home closer to their grandchildren, but a scammer baited them with a fraudulent email

A rejected offer is one thing, but losing a dream home to wire fraud is truly every buyer’s nightmare

That’s exactly what Ross and Melinda Fulton, a retired Missouri pastor and his wife, experienced while attempting to wire $130,000 for an all-cash payment on a new home, as KSHB Kansas City reported.

After saving for decades and selling their first home in Clinton, the couple decided to use the money to purchase a new home closer to their grandchildren. 

Following a wide search, they found a home in Independence, Missouri, made an offer that was accepted, and wanted to close the sale with the help of an agent. One day in November, they received the following message.

“Hello Ross and Melinda, In preparation for your closing on the 30th of November. The closing balance will be required to be wired 26th of November. I would like to know if you will be able to perform the wire on the 26th, so I can inform [company name].”

After some back and forth about an in-person payment with the party on the other end of the email, the Fultons gave in. Because the email was signed with their agent’s signature, the Fultons and had no reason to suspect a scam. And so they wired the money to avoid losing out on their dream home.

It turned out that a third party had hacked their email and monitored their previous conversation with their agent, and used the information to send the request for the money wire at the perfect time.

Of course wire fraud is a common practice, especially on big ticket items like homes. This is why making payments in person is still the recommended method by many.

“The scammers are – I hate to use the word professionals – but they do that because it works,” Paul Hentzen, the couple’s lawyer, said of the incident.

While it’s virtually impossible that they’ll get all their money back, the Fultons are hoping others will at least learn from their innocent mistake and are encouraging all buyers to be extra careful before wiring money, including calling the recipient to verify correct wire transfer instructions — using a phone number provided independently of whatever email request was sent.

Email Inman