Recommendations & Resources: Recent Cyber Fraud & Scam Incidents

Dear Members,

It is time for some updates.  And two of them are about evil fraudsters that just want to steal someone's money.  So play close attention!

Cyber fraud update.  Here's the update:  cyber fraud is getting worse!  In just the past week, I have spoken with two Fund Members who had extremely close calls with an attempted wire diversion involving significant amounts of money.  One was able to get the money back because of quick action by their office; the other Member avoided it completely by spotting suspicious email addresses used by the fraudster.  We are putting more energy toward helping you avoid these situations.  We have updated the information on the website. Here is a link to our Information Security page:  We now have phone numbers for the regional Secret Service offices.  We have an updated rapid response plan that you must get familiar with.  I recently hosted a webinar with experts in this field and have pushed the audio to my TitleNow podcast. I recommend you listen:

Please have a rapid response plan tailored to your office.  This means having the phone number of your bank (the sending bank) handy AND the direct line for the security officer.  Get to know them.  Make sure they understand that you need to be able to reach them if you suspect a wire has gone out to a fraudster.

Realize that there is very high level of market anxiety on the part of buyers - because of the limited number of homes on the market, buyers are very, very motivated to make sure they do everything "right" to make sure the deal closes.  This makes them very vulnerable to fraudster emails.  Establish a relationship with the buyer if you are going to be communicating with them about the transfer of funds. 

Real estate agents are also experiencing high anxiety for the same reason:  the number of homes on the market is so limited.  And they are not educated on these scams.  Make sure you regularly talk with your referral partners about this situation and educate them on how the fraudsters operate to insert themselves into a transaction.

Lastly, educate yourself about how you can implement some protocols in your office on the technology side.  Use multifactor authentication whenever an employee signs in to your system.  Educate yourself on how to check to see if rules have been imbedded in your email account without your knowledge.  CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS OFTEN.  And consider the low-tech alternative:  TALK TO PEOPLE ON THE PHONE.

This truly only touches the surface of what you need to know but we will do our best to continue to offer you opportunities to learn more.  Look for more information from us in the future!

Vacant lot scams.  There has been a significant increase in the number of fraudulent sales of vacant lots.  Commonly these lots are free of a mortgage and the owners live outside of the U.S.  Fraudsters posing as the seller will contact a real estate agent and ask for assistance in finding a buyer for a quick sale. A contract is entered into and the closing is referred to a Fund Member. All communication with the seller is via email.  No phone calls!  The closing documents will be handled as a "mail away" and the seller often says they will be signing in front of a notary at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy.  These are very common!  Be on the alert for these situations.  We just issued an updated alert that you should review in detail.  Here is a link to the alert.

Mobile Home Title Problems?  The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar has formed a committee to consider possible improvements to the law regarding transfer of mobile home titles. The biggest problem is when the purchaser accepts a deed and keys to the mobile home without mobile home titles also being transferred when the titles have not been properly retired. Have you suffered the consequence of that? How did you clean it up? Do you have other horror stories to share with the subcommittee?  If so, please email me with your experience and I will forward them to the committee!  Thanks.

Let me know how we can help you.

Melissa Jay Murphy
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer,
and General Counsel