The title and settlement industry is blessed with great people, and that makes sense because our industry is built on being helpful.
We all want a smooth, efficient transaction for everyone involved. Unfortunately, our desire to be helpful and to keep things moving makes us a prime target for wire fraud.
So, how careful do we need to be when verifying the legitimacy of an email or even an incoming phone call?
Fraudsters know about us. They know how busy we can be, and they know how to prey on our traits to overcome our data and escrow security training.
They aren’t just looking to trick us. They aren’t practical jokers. They are truly insidious “social engineers.”
They use every scrap of information they can find, every pretext they can imagine and all the dark arts of the hacker to whittle down our firewalls — electronic and human. For the overseas criminal, wire fraud is a low-risk, high-reward strategy. Until that changes, the threat will persist.
We need good policies and procedures to address the threat, but even this isn’t enough. Anyone who’s been hit with a wire fraud loss will tell you that fraudsters can find ways to keep people from following the best policies and procedures.
Addressing this kind of threat requires something additional — a healthy dose of skepticism for one. But more than this, each member of the team needs to feel a sense of empowerment.
Each one of us has the ability to hand over the “keys to the kingdom” when it comes to data and escrow security, so each one must also feel empowered to pause the process when any suspicion of fraud arises.
Here are a few steps you and your team can take when an email or other communication just doesn’t feel right:
- Go with your gut: Don’t hesitate to pause the process if you suspect fraud.
- Do not give in to pressure: If you feel threatened or pressured by any communication, treat this as a red flag and immediately escalate the situation to management.
- Don’t trust — verify: Verify via telephone the legitimacy of any wire instruction, or any suspect communication. Encourage all parties to the transaction to do the same.
- Don’t click: Do not open or hover your cursor over unknown or unverified hyperlinks.
We’ve developed an infographic outlining these tips, and we encourage you to share it with your team and post it in your office. We hope that by discussing these simple steps, each person in our office will feel a sense of empowerment when it comes to protecting sensitive data and escrow funds.
Alliant National recently produced a white paper on escrow fraud as part of our ongoing effort to inform agents about the threats we all face. The paper provides information on how we can work with all parties to the transaction to reduce the risk of escrow fraud. Along those lines, I’ll be back next week with a post exploring how working with your bank in advance can be a real life saver if a wire is ever diverted.