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Recent Blog Posts

  • Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC). (part2)

    (It’s a lot to say – SupercaliFRAUDulisticexpialidocious)

    Email can be sinister. It can encourage changes (not authorized, not legitimate), it can “warn” recipients of dire circumstances if instructions are not followed, it can be shaped and branded to look like an institution all parties are familiar with, and it can assist in fraud that involves any number of untoward outcomes – like clients’ and institutions’ funds being pilfered.

    The U.S. Government has a phrase for such criminal action: Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC). That wordy title speaks to two crimes.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

    BEC scams are carried out by compromising legitimate business email accounts. The EAC component of the scam refers to the targeting of consumers and the lenders, real estate professionals, attorneys and others who serve them.

    More information on BEC/EAC fraud prevention and recovery can be found on our Education page.

    It can be daunting to try to wrap one’s brain around every single possibility and scenario that could trip someone up – and trick someone into giving away information that affords a thief the opportunity to steal funds.

    Below is a list that, while not necessarily “completely memorizable” – even if studied, can serve as a red flag for knowing when something is awry.

    It can serve as warning to be wary of the many and various paths that crooks can take to defraud legitimate people conducting real estate transactions.

    • Exercise extreme caution when weighing any request to change wire instructions. Encourage all parties to do the same.
    • Be wary of any email, phone call or other communication that involves threats, high pressure language (e.g. markings, assertions, or language designating the transaction request as “Urgent,” “Secret,” or “Confidential,”) or warns of “dire consequences” if immediate action isn’t taken.
    • Be wary of emails with missing or unusual subject lines.
    • Be wary of any request to change wiring instructions, especially any last-minute requests.
    • Be wary of emails that include poor spelling or grammar, are overly formal or that are written in a style uncharacteristic of the purported sender. Also, beware of emails that misuse industry terminology, for instance, references to the “HUD” instead of the “Closing Disclosure”.
    • Be wary of any unexpected emails or requests, including internal requests purportedly from executives or others.
    • Be wary of emails sent at odd hours.
    • Be wary of any communication seeking to confirm information the purported sender should already have.
    • Beware of sudden changes in business practices. For example, if a current business contact suddenly asks to be contacted via a personal email address, it’s best to verify the legitimacy of the request via other channels.
    • Review monthly escrow statements from the Receiving Bank (the one holding the agent’s escrow account) as soon as available to verify that all expected funds have actually been received.
    • Have a written agreement in place with the Receiving Bank (the agent’s bank which holds the escrow account and receives the agent’s payment order) that the Receiving Bank will match all names, addresses, account numbers, routing number and beneficiary bank name on the payment order with where and to whom the funds are actually sent. Or put instructions on the payment order for the Receiving Bank to verify authorization by matching all of this information.
    • Emailed transaction instructions directing wire transfers to a foreign bank account that has been documented in customer complaints as the destination of fraudulent transactions.
    • Emailed transaction instructions directing payment to a beneficiary with which the customer has no payment history or documented business relationship, and the payment is in an amount similar to or in excess of payments sent to beneficiaries whom the customer has historically paid.
    • Emailed transaction instructions delivered in a way that would give the financial institution limited time or opportunity to confirm the authenticity of the requested transaction.
    • Emailed transaction instructions originating from a customer’s employee who is a newly authorized person on the account or is an authorized person who has not previously sent wire transfer instructions.
    • A customer’s employee or representative emailing financial institution transaction instructions on behalf of the customer that are based exclusively on email communications originating from executives, attorneys, or their designees when the customer’s employee or representative indicates he/she has been unable to verify the transactions with such executives, attorneys, or designees.
    • A customer emailing transaction requests for additional payments immediately following a successful payment to an account not previously used by the customer to pay its suppliers/vendors. Such behavior may be consistent with a criminal attempting to issue additional unauthorized payments upon learning that a fraudulent payment was successful.

    Review and revisit this list of tips when handling suspicious wire requests, before the exchange of funds takes place.

    • Verify all wire instructions with an alternate method of communication.
    • Check emails to ensure the sender’s address has not been altered. Fraudsters typically use email addresses that closely resemble a seller’s (or any party’s) actual email address.
    • Do not open unknown or unverified hyperlinks or downloads. Tip: Hovering your mouse over the sender’s email address may reveal a different email address. Caution: Do not hover over unknown links within the body of a suspect email. Security experts formerly recommended hovering as a way to determine the validity of such links. However, newer strains of malware may infect a computer when the user merely hovers over the link.
    • Delete unsolicited emails from unknown sources.
    • In the case of an invoice, verify any changes in vendor payment location and confirm requests for transfer of funds.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

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  • Welcome Dustin Tillman, Alliant National’s New North Florida Agency Manager

    Dustin’s father, Tim Tillman, grew Alliant National’s footprint in North Florida over the past six years.  When Tim decided to answer the call to use his exemplary title and management skills as the Florida Production Manager, an active search began for someone to fill the Agency Manager position in North Florida.  Dustin rose to the top as an obvious choice.

    Dustin has been with Alliant National for two years. He will work closely with Tim through the transition as he continues to cultivate Alliant National’s footprint

    “Dustin has always been diligent, responsible and a hard worker; always with a sense of purpose and he has grown to be a man of great character.”

    – Tim Tillman

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  • Test My Site, an updated Google tool, delivers a better, faster and more user-friendly mobile experience

    Every second it takes for your pages to load, you risk losing both new and existing users.

    Several factors come into play when businesses build their websites and blogs, but most important among them is ensuring that your website provides the best experience possible for the user, especially on mobile devices.

    Visuals – color schemes, font size, text placement and overall layout – are important, but they’re also subjective. Page load speed, on the contrary, is highly objective, not to mention measurable.

    Numerous case studies, including one conducted by Pinterest, which increased its search engine traffic and sign-ups by 15 percent when the social media web and mobile application company reduced wait times by 40 percent, have concluded that speed performance plays a huge roll in the success of retaining users.

    At best, slow performance causes annoying delays, but if your mobile website or blog is unresponsive or takes too long to load, users may give up and point their browser elsewhere.

    As a business, you want users to read your website content and blog posts, but for every second it takes for your pages to load, you risk losing both new and existing users.

    DoubleClick by Google found 53 percent of mobile site visits were cast aside if a page took longer than three seconds to load. In that same study, sites that loaded within 5 seconds had 70 percent longer sessions, 35 percent lower bounce rates and 25 percent higher ad viewability than sites taking nearly four times longer to load.

    Just how important is it to ensure your users experience a fast and easy mobile experience?

    According to a study released by The State of Online Retail Performance, “a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rate by up to 20 percent.”

    It was that statistic that propelled Think with Google, a one-stop online shop for consumer, industry and marketing trends and insight, to create Test My Site, a tool that enables businesses to optimize their blogs and websites on mobile devices. Specifically, the tool allows businesses to see:

    • The speed of both their entire site and of individual pages 
    • Whether their site/page speed is faster or slower compared to the prior month
    • Whether their site speed/page speed ranks fast, average or slow
    • How their site speed compares to others in the industry 
    • The potential impact of site speed on revenue
    • A detailed list of recommended fixes to increase speed on up to five pages on their site
    • A complete report to share with colleagues

    With Google’s updated Test My Site, businesses now have a single destination to measure, benchmark and take action on mobile site speed—the first step toward a better mobile experience for your clients.

    Real Estate Corner:
    Fall could result in a seller’s market, thanks to falling mortgage rates and low inventory

    real_estate_orange

    According to realtor.com, the real estate slump that took hold last summer may be showing signs of reversal, especially as we look toward fall. If that prediction comes to fruition, sellers will profit the most.

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  • Voice search, an emerging mobile technology trend, is the future for digital marketers

    Hey, Alexa! Hi, Siri! Hey, Google! “Can you tell me what the temperature is going to be today?”

    There’s no question that voice search, which allows users to speak directly into a device in lieu of typing text into a search field to generate results, is gaining momentum.

    And with the increasing popularity of voice search (also known as digital assistants), businesses would be wise to add it to their digital arsenal. 

    Voice search improves the user experience of search engines—it’s faster and easier—and provides more accurate results. Bottom line: if your website content is effectively optimized, especially for mobile users, your business could be the first one that Google recommends.

    That’s a big deal when you’re considering the ways that voice search affects SEO.

    “Voice search trends are already making it clear that effective, customized SEO plays a vital role in getting your content featured. Optimizing your site and content for voice search is step one in the transformation to voice marketing. Consider all things audio and how they translate when broadcast on an audio channel,” writes Merilyn Pereira, a staff writer for martechadvisor.com.

    Even more persuasive: Google claims that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be conducted using voice search. And even if you’re not a tech titan, it’s not difficult to optimize your website content with voice search technology.

    There are, however, a few tips that make the optimization process easier, including creating content that keeps the conversation flowing, researching keywords that often appear in mobile searches and foregoing superfluous lingo and buzzwords.

    “The expression “keep it simple” applies now more than ever before. From talk to text, voice prompt calling and more, we’re doing less typing and more talking. Companies can optimize both content and connection by keeping things simple. Skip the jargon. Use clear, succinct verbiage to improve your efficacy and amplify your message,” suggests the Forbes Communications Council, which outlines 14 other top tips to optimize your content for voice search.

    Real Estate Corner:
    Voters in Lakewood, a Denver suburb, approve cap on new housing construction

    graphic - real estate, blue

    Voters in Lakewood, a Denver suburb and Colorado’s fifth-largest city, approved a ballot initiative that caps new residential construction.

    The Denver Post reports that almost 53 percent of the tally, or 18,771 votes, was in favor versus 47 percent, or 16,913 votes, against.

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  • Flagging Fraud (Part I): Know These Indicators of Transaction Fraud

    Every year the U.S. government comes out with a growing list of warnings on cyber fraud, real estate fraud, email fraud – the list goes on.

    on cyber fraud, real estate fraud, email fraud – the list goes on.

    Some warnings are common sense: delete suspicious-looking emails, don’t give away banking information or social security numbers, never wire anyone money without triple checking – and then checking again.

    We’re committed to ensuring that all independent agents have every new (and standard) information source available, even as the rules and the threats multiply and expand almost every month.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

    In this first installment of a multi-part series on Flagging Fraud, we take a look at some of the red flags involving parties to a real estate transaction.

    Red Flags

    Learn or at least become familiar with red flags that could well indicate something is awry in any real estate transaction.

    Some title fraud may be detected by agents before the transaction closes.

    Rather than memorize, regularly reviewing this list will help you and all those involved in your transactions be aware of potential fraudulent components:

    1. Releases of prior mortgages recorded before or independently of the closing of a new loan with no source of payoff funds.
    2. Many recent transactions and/or re-recordings.
    3. Recent change in title, especially one without concurrent financing.
    4. Releases recorded out of sequence.
    5. Sale of property subsequent to or concurrent with a divorce.
    6. Quitclaim deeds with no consideration.
    7. “Intra-family” deeds.
    8. Parties to the transaction are affiliated.
    9. Document not prepared by an attorney or title company.
    10. Document looks non-standard.
    11. Power of attorney with Grantee signing as Attorney-in-Fact.
    12. Prior signatures indicate failing health or physical deterioration followed by a healthy, strong signature.
    13. Bargain purchases—policy amount much higher than purchase price.
    14. New mortgage amount much higher than purchase price.
    15. Property seller is an LLC/entity/corporation.
    16. Appraisal looks questionable (e.g. indicates recent sale/listing activity at significantly lower price; comparable sales are previously flipped properties).

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

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