Help Protect Yourself From Wire Fraud

Real estate wire fraud is real.
Learn how to be WireSafe.

What is a wire?

A wire, or wire transfer, is an electronic transfer of money across a network from one bank or credit union to another. With a wire, no physical money moves between bank locations, but people or entities are able to “wire” money to another person or entity as long as they have a bank account. Wires are typically used in most real estate transactions because funds are received more quickly (usually the same day), and there are no holds placed on the money once received.

What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud typically involves a hacker gaining access to an email account and posing as a trusted party involved in your real estate transaction. This could be someone pretending to be your real estate agent, loan officer, title agent, or even an attorney. Once the hacker has access to a trusted email account, the hacker sends an email from that account or from a similar account that looks “almost” the same as one of the parties in the transaction – with information related to your transaction, including wire instructions for your closing funds. If you react to that email, your funds are sent to an account controlled by the hacker in some manner. Once receipt of the money is confirmed, the hacker immediately withdrawals your funds from that account using multiple transfers to accounts normally outside the United States. Once these transfers occur, the likelihood of recovery is small, if at all.

What are wire instructions?

Best-Practice Tip:

For added security, we only send wire instructions through our encrypted system using two-factor authentication.

Wire instructions are the directions you follow when sending money electronically to another person or entity. In the case of your home purchase, the funds are typically sent to your settlement agent. Wire instructions typically include:

  • Bank Name and Address
  • Bank ABA Number
  • Bank Account Number
  • Account Holder’s Name
  • Reference Information (in real estate transactions, this is usually a file number)

There are steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Wire fraud is real and home buyers and sellers are the biggest targets. For this reason, we have developed the WireSafe program to help educate customerson wire fraud. Be WireSafe by following these 4 steps every time.

CALL, DON’T EMAIL
Confirm all wiring instructions, including specific banking information, by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone number for your closing agent/escrow officer provided on their website or from a business card. Never rely on phone numbers in email communications.

BE SUSPICIOUS
It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment information.

CONFIRM EVERYTHING
Ask your bank to confirm the account number and the name on the account before sending any wire.

VERIFY IMMEDIATELY
Call your closing agent/escrow officer to confirm the funds were received.

Remember to inquire before you wire. Be WireSafe.

Were you the target of wire fraud?

If you think you may have been the victim of wire fraud, here are some steps you must take. Time is of the essence – every second and minute counts. Contact banks, transaction parties, and law enforcement immediately upon discovery.

Immediately call your bank

  • Ask them to issue a recall notice due to fraud for your wire
  • Ask them to reach out to the receiving bank’s fraud department to:
    • Notify them of the recall due to fraud
    • Ask for a freeze on the account involved

Report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

https://bec.ic3.gov

Report the crime to Law Enforcement

Pre-Closing Checklist for Home Sellers


Our team of experts are committed to providing home sellers with clear communication, consistency, and personalized service throughout the escrow process. But the exciting process of selling a home involves so much more for the homeowner. The checklist below can help reduce stress and organize the selling process for our valued clients.

Immediately Upon Acceptance Of The Contract

  • Follow-up on any terms specified in the contract (clearance letters, providing homeowner association paperwork, etc.)
  • Make any repairs specified in the contract
  • Provide the current mortgage loan(s) information and/or equity line of credit information to your agent (this should include your account numbers, contact information for the lender(s) and your personal information)

Deliver The Following To Your Escrow Officer

  • Your forwarding address
  • Any existing payoff information
  • Identify leased equipment
  • Homeowner Association information
  • Utilities (if they are to be paid out of escrow)
  • Judgment/Liens
  • Any name changes since vesting

During The Home Inspection

  • You should not be onsite during the inspection, but your real estate agent may be there as your representative
  • If possible, be accessible by phone to answer any questions
  • Provide your agent with keys to any areas (crawlspaces, attics, detached buildings, etc) that the inspector will need to access
  • If the property is currently vacant, ensure that all utilities are on prior to the inspection

One To Two Weeks Following The Acceptance Date Of The Contract

  • Review any inspection amendment from the buyer with your agent and begin making agreed repairs
  • Make arrangements for a moving truck or schedule your moving service
  • Provide your agent with your preferred closing time

Two Weeks Before Closing Date

  • Go to USPS.com/move to change your address online or get a change of address package from the post office.
  • Begin notifying family, friends, debtors, etc of address change
  • Begin collecting information to pass on to the new owner (receipts for appliances, warranty information, owner’s manuals, repair and contractor contact information and dates of service)

One Week Before Closing

  • Call your utility companies to schedule the final readings and disconnect dates
  • Get directions to escrow office from your real estate agent or determine location for a mobile escrow signing
  • Organize receipts and information in relation to the work done to satisfy the inspection amendment. Provide copies to your real estate agent

Day Before Signing Appointment

  • Review the preliminary Settlement Statement to verify that the terms of the contract are correct and pay special attention to the line items for water bills, homeowner association dues, and mortgage balances
  • If you have any concerns, discuss them with your agent
  • If there is a chance of any dispute, your agent may advise you to bring proof of payment to the closing

Day Of Signing

  • Have two pieces of valid ID (one being photo ID) available at your signing appointment: Driver’s License, State ID, Passport, or Green Card
  • If funds are required to close, be prepared to bring the monies in the form of a cashier’s check or wire transfer. These funds need to be received by the Escrow office 24 hours in advance of the recording/closing date indicated on your Purchase and Sale Agreement.
  • Give the new owner your forwarding address and phone number in case anything is accidentally sent to you at the old address

4 Steps to Preventing Wire Fraud

four steps to prevent wire fraud

Buyers and Sellers are Targets for Fraud

Warning! Wire fraud is real and home buyers and sellers are one of the biggest targets.

Scams to divert funds via wire transfer are widespread. Home buyers and sellers are experiencing multiple attempts to divert their entire life savings every day and we want to make sure they do not fall prey to any scam. Fraudsters target home buyers via email to trick them into sending a wire for their down payment and closing costs to the fraudster’s bank account, instead of the title company. The money is then siphoned out of the account and transferred out of the country.

Four Steps to Avoiding Fraud

Don’t be a victim. Below are four steps to avoid falling prey to wire fraud scams:

Four Ways to Prevent Wire Fraud

Call, don’t email:

Confirm all wiring instructions by phone before transferring funds. Use a trusted phone number from the title company’s website or a business card.

Be suspicious:

It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment info.

Confirm it all:

Ask your bank to confirm not just the account number but also the name on the account before sending a wire.

Verify immediately:

Call the title company to confirm the funds were received.

Additional Wire Fraud Prevention Tips

Protect Yourself and Your Clients From Wire Fraud
True Story: Escrow Team Prevents Diverted Payoff Wires

Ticor Title Opens New Escrow Location in Covington

We are pleased to announce the opening of a new escrow location in the Covington, WA community. You’ll find us conveniently located across from Covington Square Shopping Center where Highway 18 and Highway 516 meet.

Improved Service to Covington, Maple Valley, and Black Diamond Communities

The growth of Ticor’s Puget Sound operation has created opportunity for us to provide improved service and accessibility to the Southeast King County area. Our new escrow branch in Covington offers a central location with ample free parking, proximity to amenities, and easy access. We are excited to offer time savings and added convenience for our clients and partners in the area.

Where to find Ticor Title in Covington

27116 167th Pl SE, #102,
Covington, WA 98042

Phone: 253-631-3990

True Story: Escrow Team Prevents Diverted Payoff Wires

diverted payoff wires

diverted payoff wires

On February 12, 2018, Larissa C., an escrow assistant for Ticor Title of Nevada in Las Vegas, opened an escrow transaction for the sale of a residential property for $240,000. Once the title report was received, Larissa ordered a payoff statement from the existing lienholder. The payoff was sent via e–fax and she placed it in the file awaiting closing.

On March 7, 2018, Larissa worked up the file and sent the estimated closing statement to the Listing Agent.

The Listing Agent then provided Larissa with an “updated” payoff statement by email with a number of demands for Larissa to confirm: that she received the new payoff statement and she would use that one in making the payoff.

It is not normal that an agent would order an updated payoff statement to be delivered to the settlement agent. Larissa was suspicious about the email exchange, so she forwarded the email chain to her escrow officer, Stacey G., to review.

Stacey and Larissa knew something was wrong. They compared the two payoff statements closely. These were the wire instructions contained in the body of each payoff statement:

ORIGINAL Payoff Statement: ALTERED Payoff Statement
WIRING INSTRUCTIONS
Account #: XXXXXXX279
ABA/Routing Number: XXXXXXXXX
Bank Name: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Bank Address: 420 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

(the instructions included overnight delivery instructions for a cashier’s check)

WIRING INSTRUCTIONS
Account #: XXXXXXX086
ABA/Routing Number: XXXXXXXXX
Wire Reference: USA/Birt/payoff
Beneficiary: Brit Equipment/payoff
Bank Name: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Bank Address: 1445 Ross Ave. Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75202

(the overnight delivery instructions were removed altogether)

Together they called the payoff lender and confirmed their suspicion: the second payoff was from a fraudster! They detected the scam. They immediately contacted the Listing Agent by telephone, using a known, trusted telephone number. They reported someone was posing as him in the transaction and sending emails from an account that looked like his.

They immediately contacted the Listing Agent by telephone, using a known, trusted telephone number.

Ultimately, they wired the funds to the correct account of the payoff lender and saved the Company from a possible loss of $153,300.37! As a result of their actions, the Company has rewarded Stacey and Larissa for their expertise in discovering the fraud and preventing it from occurring.

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

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.

Download This Article

Wirefraud-prevented.indd
Wire Fraud Thwarted

2018 Recorder’s Holiday Closure Calendars

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

True Story: A Vacant Lot and Fake Sellers Caught

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 Dawn Jallen, LPO – Seattle Escrow Branch Manager

Dawn Jallen LPO Escrow Branch Manager

Dawn Jallen - LPO Branch Manager
We are proud to announce that Dawn Jallen has made the choice to join the Ticor Title Escrow team as Branch Manager of our Seattle/Lake Union location. Her depth of knowledge, 19 years of experience and leadership skills bring immense value to our Seattle team and will ultimately provide a superior closing experience for our clients and partners.

Dawn Jallen

dawn.jallen@ticortitle.com
Phone: 206-720-0114
Fax: 206-720-0117
1505 Westlake Ave N Suite 150
Seattle, WA 98109

About Dawn

Dawn began her career in 1998 with a small Seattle law firm specializing in escrow transactions. She began as an escrow assistant, and has progressed in the industry for 19 years. From 2000 to 2007, Dawn worked as an LPO and Branch Manager in Seattle for a National Title Company, which led to a position in Southern California as the Escrow Operations Manager for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Dawn decided to return to the Seattle market in 2012 and since that time has continued to pursue her goals and career in escrow.

Please Join us in welcoming Dawn Jallen to the Ticor Title Family!

Keys to a Successful Escrow Closing

keys-successful-closingClosing on a home can be an exciting and stressful process all at the same time. With so many potential speed bumps it’s important we make your closing flow as smooth as possible. At Ticor we believe one of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by educating buyers and sellers as they prepare for the big day. In particular we’d like to highlight some of the simple steps a buyer/seller can take to expedite the process. We call these steps the “Keys to a Successful Closing”.

BUYERS AND SELLERS

  • Provide your escrow officer with your phone number & email.
  • Confirm with your agent that all contingencies have been satisfied.
  • Keep your agent informed of any vacation or travel plans or times you will be unavailable.
  • If you plan to have your documents reviewed by an attorney, please notify your escrow officer at least 48 hours prior to signing.

SELLERS

Gather the following and deliver to your Escrow Officer:

  • Your forwarding address.
  • Any existing payoff information.
  • Identify leased equipment.
  • Homeowner Association information.
  • Utilities (if they are to be paid out of escrow.)
  • Judgment/Liens
  • Any name changes since vesting

BUYERS

  • Notify your escrow officer the names of your lender and homeowner insurance companies.
  • Verify with your loan officer that all conditions have been met.

BEFORE YOUR SIGNING APPOINTMENT

  • Plan to sign at the escrow company one or two business days before the closing date.
  • Expect the signing to last approximately one hour if you are the buyer and 30 minutes if you are the seller
  • Have two pieces of valid ID (one being photo ID) available at your signing appointment: Driver’s License, State ID, Passport, or Green Card.
  • If funds are required to close, be prepared to bring the monies in the form of a cashier’s check or wire transfer. These funds need to be received by the Escrow office 24 hours in advance of the recording/closing date indicated on your Purchase and Sale Agreement.