This week's blog is written by our guest, Elysia Brennan Account Executive at First American Title!

CYBER FRAUD: AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOU

Technology sure has changed the way we do business.  I recently went on a family ski vacation to Colorado, and while I was out hitting the slopes I was taking client phone calls, using apps to complete tasks, and forwarding emails to my office back in Florida. Amazing what you can accomplish standing in ski’s on a blue run out in Colorado.  Some may view my working on vacation as a downfall. I am not a millennial, but I understand and accept the direction that the world is going relating to technology.  Anyone can be reached at any moment of the day, in any part of the world, and this has caused us to become a somewhat impatient society that demands instant results.  This “perfect storm” that we’ve created is the situation the criminals have been dreaming of…

Bad people are trying to steal your money!  This trendy, low risk, high reward method of late has been to trick people into wiring funds into the wrong bank account.  Who are their intended victims? Anyone wiring funds.  That means they impersonate parties in a transaction and give fake instructions as to where to wire funds, including impersonating the seller, an agent of the seller, a lien holder (where to wire a payoff) and realtors (where to wire a commission).  If there are sizeable sums to be disbursed, those funds are a target.  They can also impersonate the Closing Agent, and provide fake wire instructions to a buyer so that funds intended for closing end up elsewhere.

Unfortunately, email is the easiest means of impersonation.  At first, they used internet addresses that were close to, but not exactly the same as, the real email address, hoping the victim wouldn’t notice the difference.  Now they have become more sophisticated, hacking into email accounts, monitoring transactions, and sending fake instructions at the appropriate moment.  The email may seem genuine, partly because it is coming from the genuine address, just not from whom we might think.

These days you have to assume that every change in a process is fraud and go from there, and be ever wary that each and every email could be a fraudster trying to inject himself into the transaction.  It’s a scary thing when you are communicating with someone you think is your client that you have dealt with for many years, and all of a sudden the conversation is turned over to someone else.  Once you find out, you feel violated. Always be aware that your identity can be spoofed because of the fact that so much communication on the web is NOT safe, NOT secure, and NOT encrypted. 

How can you protect yourself?  An incoming phone call never takes the place of an outgoing confirmatory call before wiring funds. PICK UP THE PHONE. Always use the phone number that you have been provided from the start of a transaction.  Do not call the number provided in the email to verify, because if it is fraud the criminals aren’t going to tell you.

If you are feeling a little scared, that is probably a good thing. Fear tends to heighten the senses. It will make you more aware if something is a little “off”. Educating you on how to keep your money, or your client’s money safe from criminals is my number one priority.

I have been an employee of First American Title for the past year.  To say I am fortunate to work for them is an understatement, and the lengths that they go to protect their clients is unsurpassed.  We have our own bank, First American Trust, which provides us more control over funds.  If you are a buyer who is purchasing a home and your escrow company is First American Title, you will ONLY be wiring funds to First American Trust. The same goes for a seller. When we disperse funds they will ONLY be wired from First American Trust. We combat fraud EVERY day in an effort to keep our client’s funds safe and secure. 

If you have any questions regarding cyber fraud, escrow, or First American Title please don’t hesitate to contact us.  We have been in Vero Beach for over 20 years and are one of Fortune Magazine’s “Top 100 Companies” to work for two years in a row. We look forward to working with you.

Elysia Brennan
Account Executive
First American Title Insurance Company
Direct Division
2001 9th Avenue, Suite # 108, Vero Beach, FL  32960 
Mobile: 772-217-9117  
Office: 772-794-9855
elbrennan@firstam.com