By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator
Recently one of our underwriters was contacted by an attorney representing a husband and wife, who were victims of identity theft. The particulars of the theft are hair raising and serve as a word of caution for anyone taking a vacation. Read the article entitled "HAIR raising" to learn from the couple's mistake.
It is always a pleasure telling stories about heroic employees who read Fraud Insights, recognize the warning signs of fraud and put into action what they have learned. Read "CAUGHT ya" to find out how an escrow officer in Fresno, California stopped a criminal attempt at diverting a wire transfer of seller proceeds, by immediately recognizing the tell–tale signs and by picking up the phone to verify the contents of the email with the real seller.
Unfortunately the entire industry is affected by the diverted wire transfer scam. We have heard numerous stories of lenders sending loan proceeds via wire transfers to a criminal's account, because they failed to verify the title company's banking information through a trusted phone number. The reported incidents are so numerous the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) has named the scam the Business Email Compromise (BEC) and describe it as a sophisticated scam targeting businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. FinCen recently shared staggering statistics that over $131 million in diverted wire transfers occurred between October 13, 2014 and September 30, 2015. It is clear from the stories we have shared during that same time frame, the key to prevention is early detection of the crime by our settlement agents.
"MORTGAGE scam!" is a weird story about a mortgage broker attempting to pull off a scam against a homeowner using a fake closing statement that appears to be prepared by Chicago Title Company. Clearly the mortgage broker was using the Company's good name and reputation to gain the trust of the homeowner and collect over $14,000 in origination fees. Luckily the homeowner got suspicious and started asking questions about the closing statement she received.
The industry is still figuring their way through the new consumer finance law, as well as the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms. Since October 3, 2015, FNF's National Escrow Administration team has answered nearly 250 questions per day from our settlement agents, title agents, fee attorneys and customers. Some of the most frequently asked questions make up this month's "Know Before You Close" section.
Be sure to answer the monthly CFPB question to make certain you understand the effects of the new rules and forms in your market area!