in this issue

By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator

We have been discussing real estate scams involving vacant properties for years, including sharing tips and tricks on how to prevent fraud from occurring in transactions insured by the Company. Read about the alert recently issued by the U.S. Secret Service Cybercrime Investigations on the increase of real estate fraud associated with vacant property titled "REAL estate scams – vacant properties."

In other news, the FBI revealed on January 26, 2023, it had secretly hacked and disrupted a ransomware gang called "Hive." The operation allowed the bureau to thwart the gang from collecting more than $130 million in ransomware demands from more than 300 victims. Government hackers broke into Hive's network and put the gang under surveillance, stealthily stealing the digital keys the group used to unlock an organization's data. Find out more about this amazing story by reading "HACKED the hackers." 

Mike Merlo, Vice President and Title Operations Manager for Lawyers Title Company in Burbank, California, has an impressive title department that offers sub-escrow services which complements their working relationships with independent escrow companies. Not only does his department search titles, but they also provide disbursement services for title clearance related items which work hand-in-hand with the escrow agent. Therefore, Mike's operation has standard operating procedures in place to ensure the department runs efficiently and protects the Company from losses. Read "HOW to be wire safe" for the details on how Payoff Processor Don Escusa, one of Mike's employees, followed the procedures and discovered two different payoff demands.

There are many different methods money launderers use to "clean" money. To learn the three stages of money laundering read the featured article titled "HOW is money laundered?" It is an interesting read on how law enforcement attempts to counteract this illegal activity.

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