In May of 2017 a group of Minnesota Land Title Association (MLTA) members attended the American Land Title Association (ALTA) advocacy Summit in Washington DC. While there, we addressed a number of issues with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Perhaps the biggest issue we discussed was the huge increase in wire fraud that’s been going on over the last year. We asked the CFPB to put out a public education campaign to help consumers protect themselves better from these types of losses.
Around the same time KARE 11 ran an article about a couple who lost $205,000 as a result of an email fraud scam. The fraudster impersonated a title agent and inserted themselves into an email chain and asked these people to send their wire to a different bank account. They wired their $205,000 savings to somebody and it was gone in a matter of minutes.
Our group from Minnesota took this on as an issue as we met with members of Congress. In response to the concerns raised, Senator Franken wrote a letter to the CFPB and to the Federal Trade Commission asking that they undertake a public education campaign around this issue to better help consumers protect themselves.
Tips for Protecting Yourself from Fraud
With that in mind, we wanted to offer a few tips for protecting yourself from fraud in real estate transactions.
- First and foremost, if you are exchanging personal or confidential information including bank account numbers, be cautious about doing it by email and never rely only on the email. Always call to verify. Whether you’re dealing with a professional or a friend, confirming that informational verbally is your single best protection.
- Be aware that most title companies today are in fact sending their wire instructions once, asking you to confirm them, and will not change them via email in the future. If you receive last minute instructions to send your funds elsewhere, consider this a red flag and reach out to the party you are dealing with directly. The surest form of communication is to look at the Title Commitment or other earlier information you received to get correct information and to call the company.
- Also, you need to be very careful when you’re opening emails – especially if you weren’t expecting one. Fraudsters are creating phishing emails that appear to come from somebody you know. If you’re getting an email that you’re not expecting from somebody and it’s asking you to do something, don’t do it. Pick up the phone and call the person to confirm they sent the e-mail.