The original plan was for this entire section to address the FBI’s 2019 wire fraud statistics. They were released in late February, and despite the best efforts of many of us in the title industry (The FNF Family of Companies and plenty of you, our strong agents included), the financial losses to these criminals continue to grow. The latest figures showed a total of $221 million in reported losses in 2019. That is up from about $150 million the prior year. The total number of reported incidents also increased.
However, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the ever-opportunistic fraudsters pounced there too. The FBI and the Federal Trade Commission quickly put out official warnings about all types of schemes, either targeting people’s fears about the virus or the stimulus money that is coming because of it. We don’t have specific tips in this area other than be vigilant and add COVID-19 to the growing list of events or issues criminals will use to try to take advantage of people. Talk about this with your family, friends and customers. As is the case with any kind of fraud, the more we talk, the more aware everyone is.
Now, back to the criminals specifically targeting our customers and transactions. In December, we proudly joined the Stop Wire Fraud Coalition, which is backed by the American Land Title Association. FNF is committed to educating our customers and the public about the threats these criminals pose to all of us. Our transactions are popular targets because of the amount of money involved, and if we — real estate agents, lenders and buyers/sellers included — aren’t vigilant, our customer’s money could be at risk.
Your FNF Family of Companies’ state and regional offices have plenty of resources to help you protect your business and your customers from fraud. Today, we’re highlighting these resources from the Florida Agency Fraud Support Team, which maintains an entire webpage full of great information. Other regions across the country have similar resources, and we think you can replicate these efforts in any office
- Use two-factor authentication to access all devices (and encourage your real estate agents and lenders to do so as well). This is especially important when working from home.
- Never use complete property addresses in email subject lines.
- Make sure your customers know to “inquire before you wire” and tell them to call you, if they are ever in doubt of something.
- Talk to your lenders and software vendors about how to report wire fraud before an incident ever occurs.
- Have phishing training and tests for your team.