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True Story: Escrow Closer Thwarts Last-Minute Wire Fraud Scheme

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Last-Minute-Wire-Fraud-Thwarted

Leanne S., AVP Branch Manager of one of our sister offices, had a closing at 10:00 a.m. The buyer was obtaining a new loan to purchase the home. The buyer had not yet wired in the closing funds so she could not disburse the proceeds to the sellers.

Leanne made arrangements with the sellers at the closing to pick up the proceeds check later that day. The sellers indicated they were going to use the funds to pay off the home equity loan on their primary residence with Navy Federal Credit Union®.

A Last-Minute Change Requested via Email

Within 10 minutes after the buyer and sellers left her office she received the following email:

“Hi Leanne,

Thank you so much for assisting with the closing. But regarding our disbursement can you assist with changing disbursing to our Sun Trust bank account. Please note that this is very important. Kindly get back to me so I can send you wire instructions.

Thanks
Mr. and Mrs. Marty G.”

Wire Instructions via Email are a Red Flag

Leanne was confused. She just spoke to the sellers about the fact they bank at Navy Federal Credit Union. They never mentioned anything about SunTrust℠ being their bank. Plus, Marty was very specific about picking up his check.

Leanne replied to the email explaining she would not be able to accommodate his request unless he came back to her office to complete and sign her wire out instructions, and provide a copy of a voided check from his SunTrust account. She never received a reply to her email and Marty confirmed he never sent that email.

Careful Communication is Key

Be Aware!

Online banking fraud is on the rise. If you receive an email containing WIRE TRANSFER INSTRUCTIONS call your escrow officer immediately to verify the information prior to sending funds.

Leanne was confident she knew the email was a scam. She spoke in detail to the sellers about when their proceeds would be available, she knew their plans for the money and where they banked.

Leanne was particularly unnerved about the fact the hacker seemed to know exactly when the closing was scheduled for and when the sellers had left her office. It is scary how savvy the hackers were.

The proceeds were in excess of $355,000. Had Leanne not paid attention to the details, she could have fallen for the scheme. Instead, she is being rewarded and recognized for thwarting a loss the Company could have suffered.

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Wire Fraud Thwarted

2018 Recorder’s Holiday Closure Calendars

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courthouse-2018

We are pleased to announce the availability of the 2018 Recorder’s Office Holiday Closure schedules for the Puget Sound and Spokane areas. These calendars assist in planning the timing of escrow closings at a glance, and each conveniently shows the following:

  • Days that the recorders offices will be closed
  • The last refinance-signing day for each month (in order to fund & record that month).
  • When Taxes become due

Download Recorder’s Office Calendars Below

Thank You, Spokane!

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Thank-you-spk

Ticor Title would like to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to the Spokane Community

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our clients and partners in the Spokane area. 2017 has been a year of growth and success for Ticor Title in this marketplace, and our team of Title & Escrow specialists are thankful for every opportunity to partner with the people and real estate community of Spokane. We believe that every successful closing begins with a great team. Our team is committed to building strong relationships through listening, clear communication, consistency, and personalized service.

Thanksgiving Holiday Closures

In observance of Thanksgiving, our offices will be closed Thursday, November 23 and Friday, November 24. If you have questions regarding an escrow closing near that time, please contact your Ticor Escrow Officer or Sales Executive.

Escrow & Title Insurance 101 [videos]

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Title Insurance & Escrow 101 Video Series

The Title & Escrow Experts

At Ticor Title, we’ve been insuring the home ownership dream for over a century. With a rich Pacific Northwest history and industry-leading financial strength, we provide the peace of mind and the personalized service that make the closing experience excellent for our clients and partners. If you have questions about the role of escrow or title insurance in your real estate transaction, our team of experts are here to help.

A Rare and Exciting Event

For most of us, purchasing a home is an event that happens only a few times in our lifetime. Today’s homeowner stays in their home an average of 11-15 years. So it’s understandable that the typical home buyer may be unfamiliar with how escrow operates, what protection title insurance provides, and how to be ready for the escrow process when the time comes to make a real estate purchase.

Title & Escrow in Plain English

We’ve assembled a series of brief videos here that provide an overview of escrow & title insurance as well as insights into what to look for in a title insurance company and how to be prepared for escrow closing.

What is Escrow

What is Title Insurance

What to Look for in a Title Insurance Company

What to Expect at Closing

Ticor Title Welcomes Jen Evans, Escrow Closer

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Jen Evans Escrow Closer

We are pleased to welcome Jen Evans to our University Place Escrow team. Jen brings over 13 years of escrow closing experience and is excited to advance her career with Ticor Title. Her expertise, insights, and personal care will bring great value to our clients and partners.

Please join us in welcoming Jen Evans to the team!

About Jen

Jen Evans

253-620-1396
jen.evans@ticortitle.com

3929 Bridgeport Way W #202
University Place, WA 98466

Born and raised in Tacoma, Jen began her career as an Escrow Assistant in 2004 and progressed on to beccome an Escrow Closer in 2012. She is excited for her new venture as an Escrow Closer in the University Place office and her goal is to earn the LPO certification in 2018. She strives to provide clear communication, personalized service and consistency to her clients and goes above and beyond to make every transaction as smooth as possible. Jen looks forward to reconnecting with past clients and the challenge of expanding her book of business in the Puget Sound area.

Ticor Title Major Accounts Welcomes Kris Weidenbach

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Kris Weidenbach Ticor Title

We are happy to announce that Kris Weidenbach has made the choice to join the Ticor Title Major Accounts Team in Western Washington. Kris brings a track record of success and growth with over a decade of leadership in the title & escrow space. His energy, insights, and acumen will truly prove to be invaluable to our clients and partners.

Please join us in welcoming Kris to the Ticor Title team!

A Word from Kris

Kris Weidenbach

Vice President
Major Accounts Division
253-312-3606

I’m excited to announce that I have joined the Ticor Title Team as Vice President in the Major Accounts Division. Ticor has established itself as a premier leader in the Title and Escrow industry with a combination of strong financial underwriting and a commitment to growth. All the while providing first class service, with cutting edge software, and empowering local leadership to effectively manage their individual marketplace. These are a few of the many reasons why I made the decision to join this team of exemplary business professionals.

True Story: A Vacant Lot and Fake Sellers Caught

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Vacant Lot & Fake Sellers CaughtTeri D., Closing Officer at one of our agencies, was processing a sale of a vacant, waterfront lot. The sales price was $205,000; a cash purchase. The purchaser paid $5,000 as earnest money and was working with a builder on plans to build a home on the lot.

Since the property was a vacant lot Teri realized the seller’s mailing address would be different than the property address; her office has an added precaution in place where the address provided is compared with the address for the tax bill on the tax assessor’s website.

Confirmation & Connecting with the Sellers

Teri discovered the vacant property address was different than the tax bill address. She sent a letter to the seller at the address listed on the tax bill introducing herself, her company and asking the seller to contact her to confirm the sale of the lot. The buyer was not obtaining a new loan so about a week later they were ready to close. Teri prepared the closing documents on Friday, March 31, 2017. She contacted the listing agent to find out where and how she should send the closing documents. The listing agent advised her to email the closing documents to the seller. Once again, in an effort to ensure there was no funny business going on, Teri also sent the documents via overnight delivery to the address on the tax bill. Everything was sent on Monday, April 3, 2017.

We’re Not Selling

“They told him they were not selling their lot…”

On April 5, 2017, the real owners of the vacant lot called the Agency and asked to speak with the President. Brice C. took their call. The owners explained to Brice they received a letter and overnight package from his company. They told him they were not selling their lot and did not have it listed for sale. Further, they stated they already explained this to the listing agent on March 24, 2017. That was twelve days ago. Teri wondered why the listing agent did not tell her that when she called on March 31, 2017?

Questions for the Listing Agent

Brice called Teri into his office to share what he learned. She immediately called the listing agent to notify him the real owners just called her company’s president. She asked him why he did not tell her he spoke to them on March 24, 2017. The listing agent explained after receiving the email about the property, unbeknownst to him, he asked the fake sellers for identification. They showed him their passports. He asked for copies and they gave him copies. It never occurred to him they were false.

The real owners had forwarded their email exchange with the listing agent to Brice, where they confirmed they were the owners of the lot and were not interested in selling. Teri also asked the listing agent why he provided her with a different email address for the seller than the one he received from the real owners who communicated with him. He simply huffed at her. Was he really going to let this deal close knowing all of this? She will never know.

No, Thank You!

Fortunately for Teri this agent does not usually do business with her. It was the selling agent who encouraged the buyers to select her as their closing agent. The company resigned from the transaction.

Teri recognized the risks associated with sales where the property owner is absentee. Simply checking the tax bill and sending a notice to the address listed on the bill saved the agency and the underwriter from a potential claim.

Ticor Title Welcomes Aimee Rado, Sales Executive

Aimee Rado

Aimee Rado

We are proud to announce that Aimee Rado has made the choice to join the Ticor Title sales team in our Seattle/lake Union location. She brings over 10 years experience in marketing and customer service to our clients and partners.

About Aimee

Aimee Rado

206-418-9311
aimee.rado@ticortitle.com

1505 Westlake Ave N, Suite 150
Seattle, WA 98109

Aimee began her career in title and escrow sales when she moved to Seattle from Dallas, Texas in 2016. She has had a love for real estate and architecture her whole life. Her extensive background in marketing, design and customer service has given her the knowledge to help real estate professionals grow their business and have smooth and successful transactions. She is a go-getter and will make sure each of her clients are happy with their experience working with her and her team. Aimee has spent the last year focusing on how to help real estate professionals reach their goals and gain more business.

She is passionate about helping people, great design, outdoor adventures and finding new restaurants.

Best in Class & Getting Better! We’re Fortune #293!

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Ticor Title is proud to be recognized as a leader in our industry as a member of the FNF Family of companies. We celebrate that in 2017 our rank has improved to the position of #293 from our previous position of #311 on the Fortune 500.

2017 Fortune 500

This year’s Fortune 500 marks the 63rd running of the list. In total, Fortune 500 companies represent two-thirds of the U.S. GDP with $12 trillion in revenues, $890 billion in profits, $19 trillion in market value, and employ 28.2 million people worldwide.

At Ticor Title, we believe that every transaction begins with a great team. Our team of professionals are committed to personalized service, clear communication, consistency, and the highest standards of conduct to ensure that our clients and partners have a best-in-class closing experience with every transaction.

We would like to thank you for your continuous patronage and support. We look forward to many years of innovation, growth, and successful closings together!

Protect Yourself and Your Clients From Wire Fraud

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Wirefraud Prevention Tips

Wire fraud has become a daily occurrence in our industry. Realtors®, Real Estate Brokers, Buyers and Sellers are targets for wire fraud and many have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because they wired funds based on wire instructions received via email.

Common Wire Fraud Schemes

A hacker can break into a licensee’s email account to obtain information about upcoming real estate transactions. After monitoring the account to determine the likely timing of a close, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing either as the escrow agent or as the licensee. The fraudulent email may contain new wiring instructions or routing information, and request that the Buyer send funds accordingly. They could just as easily send an e-mail to the escrow agent posing as a Seller or a Real Estate Broker instructing the escrow agent to wire seller funds to different account rather than to the account provided at the signing.

Be Alert

Below are the procedures we have implemented at Ticor Title to keep our clients’ information and money safe and secure. We have also provided some tips on what a client should look for.

We encourage you to pass them along to your client so they are aware of the wire fraud scams plaguing our industry.

  1. Ticor Title will not accept disbursement instructions or changes to disbursement instructions via e-mail. Should a circumstance arise that requires disbursement instructions be sent via e-mail we will always contact the client to confirm the information received using a pre-verified phone number.
  2. If we are instructed to e-mail wire instructions to a Broker or a Buyer or Seller they are always sent using encrypted e-mail.
  3. If your client receives wire instructions via e-mail instruct them to ALWAYS follow up with a phone call to their escrow closer before they wire funds.
  4. Pay attention to the wording of an email requesting funds. Many fraudsters are “offshore” offenders and their sentence structure may be broken and may contain misspelled words or improper grammar.
  5. Beware of e-mail spoofing. E-mail spoofing is the forgery of an e-mail address so that the message appears to have originated from someone other than the actual source. For instance, you could receive an e-mail that you believe originated from your Escrow Closer or Broker because the e-mail address is the same as theirs. However, if you click on the e-mail address it will disclose the true e-mail address of the originator. E-mail Spoofing is a common tactic used in wire fraud campaigns and if you are not familiar with the tactic you are very likely to follow the instructions contained in the e-mail, believing they came from the proper party.
  6. Be wary of a sudden or urgent request for funds that were not anticipated or required as part of the transaction. Examples include a request for an additional earnest money deposit or extension fee that was not part of the purchase agreement.

Call Before You Wire

wirefraud prventionWire Fraud Prevention Tips

Wire Fraud in the News

Click on the links below to view stories recently aired by KOMO 4 news on the subject of wire fraud. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you have or if you would like some additional information on the subject.

http://komonews.com/news/consumer/email-scam-targeting-real-estate-industry-gets-worse

http://komonews.com/news/consumer/real-estate-title-scams-steal-homebuyers-money-and-dash-ownership-dreams

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Ticor Title Washington State

1505 Westlake Ave N #150
Seattle, WA 98109
Phone: (206) 720-0114
Fax: (206) 720-0117

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