Title scammers target Cape Coral home seller for $60k

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A man trying to sell his house in Cape Coral nearly lost $60,000 when a scammer tricked a title company he was working with to wire the money to a bogus account, he said.

Scott Grimm and his wife had raised their family of nine in the stately home.

“We’re down to three at home and we want to keep it that way, so we had a big home we wanted to downsize.” Scott added, “I’m a small business owner and we saw a little bit of a cash flow crunch coming, and I wanted to be prepared for that.”

So they put their home on the market. The first day it was up, it sold, Grimm said.

“It was a quick closing because it was a cash offer. We closed on Dec. 15 and we had a check that was written to us by the title company that was almost $60,000, which I requested in check form.”

Grimm said he left the title company, Title Specialists of the Gulf Coast, that day and deposited the check into his bank account. But five days later, Grimm got a call from his bank saying a stop payment had been put on the check. So he called the agent.

“The agent said she thought she had wire transferred the money, and I said, ‘No, don’t you remember, you gave us a check,” Grimm said. “She was crying, and she told me that she had made a mistake. That she got an email within 10 minutes of me leaving the closing office, that she had received an email from someone whom she thought was me, requesting she put on stop payment on that check and that the money be wire transferred to a Bank of America account.”

That email must have come from a scammer, Grimm said, and his $59,600.73 and was gone. But the agent assured him she would get his money back to him that day, Grimm said.

Three weeks later, Grimm still didn’t have his money, so he contacted WINK News Call for Action. We contacted the title company, their lawyer, the underwriter for the title company and the Office of Financial Regulations with the state to get answers.

Within a week, Grimm got a call from the title company’s lawyer saying they had his money.

When we reached out to that lawyer, Gregory Goetz, he sent us this statement:

“At this time both Mr. and Mrs. Grimm and Title Specialists have resolved this matter. However, none of us are able to comment on this matter because of the ongoing investigation.”


WINK News reached out to Steward Holley, who owns the Real Estate Law Series and has more than 18 years of experience in the business. Holley did not work on Grimm’s case but said he has heard of scammers targeting title companies in the past.

“This has been a problem for a few years,” Holley said. “There’s been issues, particularly in Southern California, Texas, New York, Florida, large real estate markets where people will hack into, and I use that term very loosely, hack, but they get into the email accounts of realtors and brokers and then they will create similar email addresses or sometimes send emails straight out of those accounts to title companies.”

The industry as a whole is trained on how to protect itself, Holley said. One of those training protocols includes checking if a payment method is ever changed.

“In cases like this, you don’t want to change the way the funds are dispersed. Generally you decide on how those funds will be dispersed up front and you stick to that,” he said. “There’s standard operating procedure for dealing with changes. For example, in the middle of a transaction, [if] you had previously agreed to issue a check and now you’re being asked to send a wire, you want to check with all the parties. The real estate agent, the broker, the buyer, the seller, whoever’s instigating this. You want to make sure this is actually the case. You don’t do that strictly via email. You want to get on the phone. You want to confirm with them and you want to confirm all the details.”

Make sure you ask your realtor and the title company if they use secure emails, Holley said. Check to see if the title company is working with the Florida Land Title Association and make sure you write out specific instructions on how you want the money dispersed and what to do if there are changes.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like Grimm’s, tell the title company you want your money within a reasonable amount of time, Holley said. If they are not working with you, contact the Claims Counsel with the underwriter and file a complaint with the state’s Office of Financial Regulation. (http://www.flofr.com/StaticPages/FileAComplaint.htm)

The office of Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater sent this statement:

The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services is happy to assist consumers with any questions or concerns they may have regarding title companies. If a consumer opts to file a complaint, one of our specialists will contact the title company on the consumer’s behalf to assist.

There are three easy ways a consumer can file a complaint to have one of our specialists assist with whatever questions or concerns they may have:

  • By visiting our online Consumer Services Complaint homepage (www.fldfs.com/Division/Consumers/needourhelp.htm).
  • By telephone on our toll-free number: 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). Out of state consumers may call 850- 413-3089.
  • By email at: Consumer.Services@myfloridacfo.com.

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