Title company money wire safety is very important – and something that has become a recent big concern due to fraud.
In Maryland, usually a title company handles closing for the buyer and seller. The title company researches the title, gets required information from the buyer and seller, gets all of the needed paperwork together, and handles the money coming in and going out.
There recently has been a wave of cyber crimes in regards to the money going into the title company as well as going out to the appropriate parties.
Hackers have somehow gotten into the transaction, and spoofs an email address (so close, it is hard to notice the difference) telling a buyer that their downpayment should be sent to a bank account that has nothing to do with the transaction – and then that money is gone. It has been stolen.
On the seller’s end, an email will come from a spoofed account directing the title company where to send the proceeds from the sale – again, it hasn’t actually come from anyone involved in the transaction, but the involved parties don’t understand, and the title company sends the money to the account directed – however – it is not the right account, and again, that money is gone.
In Washington, DC, recently, a couple buying a home lost $1.5 Million to a hacking scheme. Here is more about that in a WAMU article.
How are hackers accessing the information? There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. An email in a transaction I was involved with was spoofed, and I thought of a few things. First, it is easy to find when listed houses go under contract on any real estate website. Finding a listing agent’s email address is an extremely easy web search. From there – do they go to the house and check the physical mailbox for information from the title company? (A questionnaire is usually emailed as well as snail-mailed.) Are they able to hack into the agent’s email without their knowledge in order to get the title company information? (It is possible, though many I know have double or triple security checks for if someone tries to access it from an unknown device.) Are they able to hack into a seller’s email address? Possibly. Title company email? Also possible.
Hackers could be using numerous ways and/or a combination of ways to get the information.
What it comes down to is that buyers and sellers need to protect themselves as best they can.
First, when a title company has been chosen by the buyer, make sure you confirm that it is the correct title company that is sending you a request for information.
Second, make sure your email login has a multiple step protection process.
Third, when you are asked to provide wiring information or receive wiring instructions from the title company, call the number ORIGINALLY given to you by your agent – not the number that is written on any paperwork sent with that request. Also, use the web to look up the title company’s registered phone number to cross reference the number you are calling.
Fourth, when you send that information to the title company, CALL them afterward to make sure they received it. Again, call the ORIGINAL number given to you that you have already called and checked before.
Though there could still be errors and problems, taking steps to try to protect yourself and your money is always a good idea.
If you have other ideas as to how to protect your wired funds, please let me know! I will add them to my site!
For more about buying or selling a house in Towson, please contact me. I would be pleased to be of assistance!