April 07, 2017

ALTA: CFPB Must Warn Consumers about Fake Title Agency Schemes

A recent uptick in the number of schemes involving hackers posing as title agents and title agencies to steal mortgage funds has led the American Land Title Association (ALTA) to send an urgent letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In 2016, the National Association of Realtors and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings directly to home buyers, title agencies and settlement agents in recent months.

The scams work like this.

  1. Hacker gains access to consumer or title agents’ email account
  2. Hacker discovers closing date and other information about the closing
  3. Hacker sends email to consumer from title agent’s account saying there has been a change in the wiring instructions
  4. Hacker directs consumer to send wiring instructions to a new account, which belongs to the hacker

ALTA Weighs in
ALTA, the national trade association representing title insurance agents, title abstractors, and underwriters, recently sent a letter to the CFPB warning of the prevalence of these attacks. ALTA notes that many times scammers will target the consumer even before title companies become a part of the transaction. Educated consumers remain the best defense for these scams.

Best Practices to Avoid Title Agency Phishing Scams
In the spirit of education and best practices voiced by ALTA, here are some common sense steps consumers can take to avoid title agency phishing scams.

  • Avoid emailing financial information.
  • Do not click on hyperlinks in emails, even if the email is from your title agency or lender. These links can direct you to cleverly disguised sites. Simply type the URL in yourself.
  • Whenever providing financial information over the internet, make sure URL begins with ‘https’ – this means the site is secure.
  • Always keep your antivirus software up to date.
  • Whenever wire instructions are changed by a title agency or settlement agent, verify the instructions with a phone call.

Compliance & Technology at Lincoln Abstract & Settlement Services
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