As a title insurance company WWLT has been in combat against the potential threat for years now. As title companies have become more sophisticated in their defense, hackers have looked for other prey inside the realm of the real estate transaction.
Title companies reported a shocking 480% increase in wire fraud scams last year according to a recent warning issued by the FBI.
Generally speaking, hackers gain access through the email of a buyer/seller involved in a real estate transaction. After monitoring the emails and watching the progress of the transaction, they determine who may be requested or has been requested to send funds. They then create a fraudulent email that mirrors or appears to be identical to those that they trust.
Example: If the realtor’s email was email@example.com, the scammer, now creates a new email firstname.lastname@example.org requesting that the consumer change the payment type (usually from a check to a wire transfer) or change the recipient to a different account (one under the hacker’s control).
These kinds of attacks have been reported in all 50 states and in 131 countries. Fraudsters have attempted to steal roughly $5.3 billion.
How we protect ourselves and your escrow money.
World Wide Land Transfer is not only compliant with all of ALTA Best Practices, but we also use additional software platforms and encryption programs to ensure that the consumer’s private information is safely stored. Moreover, our 3rd party positive pay features and wire fraud preventive measures encompass the most up to date and data-safe technology. We never send wires without first confirming the instructions and demanding authentication on two fronts. Additionally, we regularly change passwords and perform validation exercises on all 3rd parties. Lastly, we maintain cyber liability, social engineering and crime liability policies to protect our clientele.
But that does not help you!! How do you protect yourself???
Here are some basic things that folks outside the title industry can do to protect themselves.
1. Wire and other disbursement instructions received by email should be confirmed by telephone at a known or independently confirmed number, NOT the telephone number at the bottom of the email you are trying to confirm.
Fraudsters are posing as multiple parties in a transaction and emails may appear as if they are from a trusted source. Carefully look at the email address and confirm it is from the professional you believe you are speaking to.
2. Be skeptical of any change in wiring instructions.
Title companies rarely, if ever, open new trust and/or escrow accounts creating a change in wiring instructions.
3. Confirm the account to which you are wiring funds.
Buyers can request account holder verification from their bank before initiating their wire.
4. Watch out for phishing emails with embedded links, even if they appear to come from a trusted source such as the title company, realtor or lender.
If you receive an email that has a link in it, even if you’re expecting it and you trust the sender, never click on the link. Go to the website and log in directly. Then, delete the message.
Watch for look-alikes in the sender’s address. Hackers and cyber criminals frequently use similar domains by replacing vowels with numbers or inserting one letter within a long domain name.
5. Be suspicious of requests to take action quickly.
Look for misspellings, poor grammar, generic greetings, and a false sense of urgency.
Any email requests marked urgent, rush or confidential should be flagged as possible fraud.
6. Ensure your anti-virus software is enabled and up-to-date.
7. Use strong, unique passwords for each service – don’t reuse passwords on multiple websites
Take these warnings that you should be seeing everywhere now seriously. Pay careful attention to detail, be vigilant and meticulous when dealing with your assets. Everyone should take stock of their assets, their security vulnerabilities, and their approach to cyber security if these kinds of wire fraud scams are going to be avoided in the future.
World Wide Land Transfer is a technology and compliance driven title company issuing title insurance nationwide. To learn more about our services and how we can streamline your next commercial or residential real estate transaction, visit our homepage or contact us today!