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In August 2017, Nate Hidalgo transferred up to Fidelity National Title's Whitefish, Montana operation working as an extraordinary escrow assistant. On November 13, 2018, he was working on a residential sale transaction where the seller had just emailed her payoff authorization, giving the payoff lender permission to send the payoff statement for her loan directly to Fidelity National Title.

Nate called the payoff lender and ordered the payoff statement using its automated system. The payoff statement arrived via electronic fax shortly thereafter and was placed in the file.

The following day, November 14, 2018, Nate received an email from someone who appeared to be the seller that read:

  I made contact with my lender regarding the payoff and they told me the payoff has been fax to your office this morning. Can you please confirm if you received the payoff statement? If you have any questions, please drop me an email.

Nate responded to the seller and let her know the payoff was received. Another email from someone who appeared to be the seller read:

  Okay good. If you have any question, please drop me an email.

Nate responded that he needed to clarify where to send the funds for the payoff and that he was on hold with the payoff lender. The supposed seller responded:

  I am sure the details will be in the payoff letter, but I will also try to get a hold on them to clarify as well and see if I can have a copy of the payoff letter.

As you read this exchange, it might make you wish all sellers were as helpful in obtaining payoff statements from their lenders right? The next message from the person purporting to be the seller read:

  Here is the payoff statement I received from them and they said the funds for payoff should be send to the law firm debt collector of Kappa. The information's are in the payoff letter, let me know if you need anything else.

A payoff statement was attached, just like the one Nate had received previously. He compared the two. The payoff statement the seller supposedly emailed was dated November 14, 2018, but:

  • The per diem was removed
  • The mailing address for the payoff lender was removed
  • The contact email and telephone number for the payoff lender was removed
  • A new contact number for "Kappa" was inserted
  • The bank wire information had been changed directing the payoff proceeds to another bank in an account under the name of "Kappa"

Nate picked up the phone and called the payoff lender. They confirmed the payoff figures and the bank wire information was correct on the first payoff statement, not the second. For Nate's efforts to verify the bank wire, he has received a $1,500 reward and a letter of recognition from the Company.

 

 
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