Phishing for Fraud

DEC 28, 2020

Imagine this: You're in the final few days before closing on your dream home.  You already sold your new house and living temporarily in a hotel. You need everything to go smoothly.  One morning an email arrives from a title company or lender asking to have funds wired immediately or it could delay closing.  Not wanting any delays, you quickly head to the bank and wire the funds.  What could go wrong?

The reality is plenty can go wrong.  Payoff Fraud is a rising problem where someone impersonates a lender or title company to wrongfully receive funds from a settlement process, refinancing, or sale of a property.  The most common tactics are similar to other scams and usually include falsified payoff statements and wiring instructions.

These frauds are often perpetrated through phishing and social engineering but can also feature incredibly authentic looking email addresses, spoofed portals and other elements that make it hard to differentiate them from honest requests.  Even fax machines are no longer considered safe.  The internet makes accessing information so much easier, but it can also make it easier for criminals.

So how can you stay safe?

As a title company we start by training our staff and putting in the best cyber security we can.  We take the safety of our clients seriously and protecting your information is one way we show it.  We also work to educate buyers and sellers.  When you know how to protect yourself, we can partner together to keep you safe.

Keep your eyes out for these three red flags that you might be getting scammed.  Does the email feature:

  • New or changed contact information and wiring instructions
  • A sense of urgency
  • Something bad will happen if you don't act now

There is a strong reason to be suspicious if so.  Another way to keep yourself safe is to spend some time training yourself to spot possible phishing attempts.  This tool from Jigsaw and Google was designed to test users' ability to spot the latest and most sophisticated scams based on cybersecurity training with more than 10,000 journalists, activists, and politicians around the world. Take a minute to try it out.

Remember, your agent, lenders and title company partners want to help you safely complete your real estate transaction.  Ensure your wire instructions come directly from the title company, do not ever accept these from a third party (even the Realtor or lender), AND obtain the title company phone number from an independent source (not an email) and call to personally verify the accuracy of the wire instructions.

If you ever have any doubts about an email's authenticity, give your team a call. We're here to help.


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Earnest Money or deposit funds may be mailed or wired to one of our offices.  Please contact our office directly for wire instructions.

MAY 26, 2020

Closing costs are the final hurdle between a buyer and their new home.  It can also represent a surprising chunk of money. So, it's no surprise there are a lot of questions.

We are often asked: what's the difference between a title exam to provide title insurance and an opinion of title completed by an attorney?  The differences mainly come down to cost, the level of risk, and remedies offered to the landowner.

Although you may not typically speak with your closing agent until you are well into the purchase process or possibly not until the day of closing, it is a good idea to consider the closing agent early on, introduce yourself, and be sure the agent has all your contact details, phone numbers, e-mail and mailing address. Your realtor or mortgage broker can help you find the best partner for you and help you make contact!

FEB 04, 2020

There is a popular meme that comes from an Old El Paso taco kit.  In the commercial a family is unable to decide between soft taco shells or crunchy shells until a dark haired young girl solves their problem with a simple question: Why not both?  This one statement is celebrated by the family and the commercial launched her into meme stardom for any time people don't believe they should have to choose between two excellent options.

MAR 21, 2020

We have been advised and have direct knowledge of increased attempts to victimize buyers/borrowers by fraudulently diverting their closing funds to an account that is not that of the title company.  In this current environment, many people are distracted, overwhelmed, and working in an environment of modified and sometimes, relaxed protocols.  Parties to the transaction are anxious to complete their closings before implementation of further restrictions that may impact the timeline of their closing.  Consequently, they may not be taking the time to understand and follow protocols that are critical to the security of their closing funds.  Real estate and lending professionals should: