A Fidelity operation in Northern California regularly uses the services of an outside signing company to perform document signings. On one particular transaction they sent the documents to an approved outside signing company in an unencrypted email.
The borrowers were refinancing their property to reduce their monthly payment by $200. Little did they know the refinance might end up compromising their credit and identities. The borrowers were husband (information security specialist) and wife (doctor).
The lender failed to include the borrowers' financial statements and tax returns in the original package of the loan documents and they were later transmitted to the outside signing company. Since the signing agent had already left with the loan documents to meet with the borrower, the signing service company emailed the trailing financial statements and tax returns directly to the borrower with a message to print and sign the documents, and hand them to the signing agent when she arrived.
The borrower was outraged the documents containing their non–public personal information had been sent over the Internet unencrypted. The borrower contacted the signing service company owner and demanded they stop sending emails to them, to the escrow officer and to the lender containing their non–public information unless those emails could be secured through encryption.
The signing company owner stated the documents were sent by the title company unencrypted, so he forwarded them unencrypted. Then the signing company sent unencrypted, unsecure messages containing non–public information (such as their social security numbers, loan numbers, bank account numbers and credit card numbers) to the borrower two more times.
Although angry, the borrowers met with the signing agent and signed their loan documents. The signing agent left the borrower's residence and headed home. After returning home, she finished notarizing, sorting and packaging the documents to be picked up by courier, and returned to the signing company's office. She leaned the package of signed loan documents against her front door around 8 p.m. The signing agent labeled the envelope with the signing company's name and a smiley face.
The signing agent went inside and told her husband and daughter a package was left on the front porch, that someone was coming by to pick it up and not to bring it back in the house. At 11 p.m. the signing agent's doorbell rang. When she answered the door she was shocked to see the courier there to pick up the package of documents. The courier did not have the documents and the package was missing!
The signing agent scrambled looking for the package. She woke her husband and daughter to see if they took it. The husband said he turned off the front porch light at 10 p.m. and the package was gone, so he assumed the courier had come and gone. The signing agent waited until morning and then asked her neighbors if one of them had picked up the package, but none of them had seen it. The signing agent filed a police report and the documents were never recovered.
As a result of the above incidents the office took the following steps:
- Arranged for another signing appointment with a BancServ notary at no cost to the borrower
- Provided the borrower with a year's worth of Credit Check® Basic through Experian®
- Contacted Lisa Tyler, the National Escrow Administrator, who provided a sincere verbal and written apology on behalf of the Company
- National Escrow Administration permanently removed the signing service company from the approved notary list, since they violated the Notary Public's Professional Responsibility & Requirements (specifically Item #12 which requires they keep all documents safe while in their possession)
As a result, settlement agents need to verify the signing company they use for each and every transaction to ensure they have not been removed from the list. If settlement agents need assistance in verifying an approved notary, they should contact the National Escrow Administrators via email at email@example.com or by phone at 949.622.4425.
The transaction ultimately cancelled. It is not likely the lender who directed the order or the borrower will ever use our Company in the future to serve their escrow and title needs.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Before sending documents to a signing agent, consider how the documents are transmitted. If they are sent by email, make sure the email is sent using our Company's encryption software – called Voltage. To find out more about the Voltage technology read escrow technical memorandum #148.2011 Secure Emails.
Make sure the signing agent has a way to transmit a secure message back to escrow and/or to the borrower, if they will be transmitting non–public information. If they do not have encryption software available, they should not be transmitting emails containing non–public information.
Better yet, make the safe bet and use BancServ, the Company's wholly–owned subsidiary signing service company. BancServ has technology that enables the settlement agent to upload the closing documents to a secure website. The assigned signing agent/notary logs into the website and can only print the documents – they cannot be saved to the signing agent's personal computer. After 30 days has lapsed the document package is permanently removed from the BancServ website. This technology maintains the integrity of the customers' non–public information and prevents unwanted disclosure over the Internet through unsecure emails.