Social media strategy: How to plan, analyze, measure results

No matter how you choose to approach social media, be it through organic content posts, the pay-to-play model or a mix of both, you should have a solid social media strategic communications plan in place before you get down to business.

Your plan should start with clear objectives, including defined target audiences. Are you elevating awareness for a specific event or a unique offer at your business? Perhaps you’d like to leverage your social media to garner more leads for your business.

Whatever your aim is, you’ll want to outline the tactics you’ll use to achieve your objectives such as which social media platforms you’ll leverage, how many posts you’ll make per week, will you have themes for posts, etc.

Your plan should be short and direct, ideally one page in length. Nothing too fancy, but it should be a road map for your success.

escrow fraud

Escrow fraud schemes tend to follow common patterns connected by email

We’ve all heard escrow fraud stories, and maybe you or someone you know has even had a wire diverted. The details can be pretty freaky.

See what you think of this one:

A young woman is selling a property and her father is the real estate agent on the deal. The father and daughter hand deliver wire instructions to the title agency.

Ten minutes after they leave, the processor at the title agency receives an email that looks like it’s from the daughter. The email says “My daddy” wants to change the wire instructions so the seller proceeds will go to a different account.

The processor doesn’t want to bother the daughter and feels comfortable that the email is legit given that it mentions the woman’s father. The processor marks the changed instructions as “verified” and sends them to the wire department.

The email was fraudulent. The wire was for nearly $300,000. In this case, the title agency was able to retrieve all the money thanks to quick action and more than a little luck.

Freaky, right?

The details always get our attention, but they can also distract us and make it hard to get ours hands around the basic ways escrow fraud tends to work.

Escrow fraud schemes tend to follow common patterns. Often, fraudsters hack the email account of the real estate agent or another party and monitor the account for upcoming closings.

As a closing date approaches, the fraudsters — posing as one of the parties to the transaction — interject themselves into the communications chain and seek to change wire instructions. Fraudulent communications usually come via email but also can be made via telephone or fax.

7 common scams we’ve heard about from our agents

  • 1. THE SELLER SPOOF: A classic. Fraudsters, posing as the seller, email the settlement agent using an email address that looks like the seller’s, or even uses the seller’s actual email address. The criminals attempt to divert seller proceeds to a fraudulent account.
  • 2. THE LATE SWITCHEROO: The settlement agent receives instructions from the seller regarding where to wire the seller’s sale proceeds. Then, before the closing, the settlement agent receives a message from an email address that looks like it is from the real estate agent instructing the settlement agent to wire the sale proceeds to a different, fraudulent account.
  • 3. EARNEST MONEY HUSTLE: The settlement agent receives an email from an address that appears to be the real estate agent’s. The fraudster instructs the settlement agent to release the earnest money deposit back to the alleged client. The instructions direct funds to a fraudulent account.
  • 4. THE BUYER BEWARE: Fraudsters pose as the settlement agent or real estate agent using an email address that looks like it is from one of them and instruct the buyer to wire his or her down payment funds to a fraudulent bank account.
  • 5. THIRD-PARTY POOPER: In a transaction involving a third-party investor who is to receive seller proceeds: The fraudsters, impersonating the investor, using an email address that looks like the investor’s, provide fraudulent wire instructions to the seller. The seller conveys these instructions to the settlement agent who wires proceeds to the fraudulent account.

In addition, some frauds may not involve the buyer, seller or real estate agent. Here are some examples:

  • 6. BUSINESS EXECUTIVE SCAM: Fraudsters, posing as the CEO or CFO of a title company, email an employee whose job includes transferring funds. The email requests an urgent payment to be made outside of normal procedures, often giving a pressing reason. The account to which payment is made is fraudulent. 7. THE VENDOR BENDER: Fraudsters, posing as a vendor of the title company, email the title company directing payment of an invoice to a fraudulent account.
  • We’ve developed an infographic outlining these 7 Deadly Scams, and we hope that by familiarizing yourself with these basic patterns, you and your team will be better positioned to sniff out escrow fraud. You may also want to discuss common scams, like the Buyer Beware and the Third-Party Pooper, with your consumers.

On that note, Alliant National recently produced a white paper on escrow fraud as part of our ongoing effort to inform agents about the threats we all face. The paper provides real-life tips and strategies for keeping consumers informed about the important role they can play in helping to keep escrow funds safe.

I’ll be back next week with a post exploring some of those strategies.

What's the difference between boosting + advertising on Facebook?

As you begin to post original and curated content more regularly on your Facebook page, you may notice the platform offers ways to increase the viewership of your posts.

Viewership is also known as “reach,” or how many individuals see your original and curated content posts in their newsfeed.

Boosting a post works like this: Say you post about an upcoming event, and you then determine you want that post to reach more people’s Facebook feeds and ultimately increase brand awareness of and attendance at your event.

You can pay a nominal fee ($30-50 average per boost) and choose the audience demographics for your boosted post. Boosting posts will increase the “reach” or viewership of your event post.

What’s more, you can also target your boost to reach a desired audience. For example, you may choose all 18-to-36-year-old men and women who live within 3 miles of a specific area code. The more people you choose to “reach” with your “boost,” the higher the fee.

Escrow fraud remains low-risk, high-reward for criminals

Several months ago, title agents across the country observed an uptick in attempted escrow fraud. In many cases, fraudsters posed as other participants in the transaction and attempted to trick agents into wiring funds to fraudulent accounts. The vast bulk of these escrow fraud attempts involved bogus emails. The stories and dollar losses were startling, and the industry responded. Alliant National produced a comprehensive alert for its agents discussing the threat. The American Land Title Association (ALTA), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and others issued various alerts for consumers. Since then, many agents have implemented policies around verification of wire instructions, and some have established retrieval plans in case a wire is diverted. Agents also have started discussing email and escrow security with consumers and real estate agents. The escrow fraud stories seemed to have quieted down a little recently. So, have we “whacked the mole” when it comes to escrow fraud? Probably not. The reason is simple. Escrow fraud is still a low-risk and high-reward strategy, particularly for criminals overseas. During a recent data security hearing before the U.S. House Financial Institutions Subcommittee, Daniel Mennenoh, ALTA’s immediate past president, noted that the average wire fraud loss is just under $130,000. On the other hand, the average successful bank robbery nets just $3,800. For a fraudster, the choice between holding up a bank and raking in 30 times as much money while sitting in front of your computer in your jammies seems pretty clear. Email-involved escrow fraud is part of a larger fraud threat targeting businesses of all sizes and the general public. The FBI refers to this threat as Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC). According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), BEC/EAC scams have been reported by businesses and victims in all 50 states and in 131 countries. IC3 data indicates fraudsters stole or attempted to steal more than $1.59 billion from roughly 22,000 U.S. victims between October 2013 and December 2016. Fraudulent transfers have been sent to 103 countries with the majority going to Asian banks located in China and Hong Kong. IC3 saw a 480% increase in the number of complaints in 2016 filed by title companies that were the primary targets of BEC/EAC scams. Those are big numbers, and they remind us that this problem isn’t going away. Fraudsters are going to keep trying to think up ways to get us to ignore our training and wire out money to fraudulent accounts, so we must remain vigilant in that regard. However, the escrow fraud “mole” is already rearing his ugly little head someplace else. Fraudsters are coming directly after consumers, and that’s a very difficult “mole hole” to guard. Staying on top of the escrow fraud threat isn’t going to be easy, but we in the title and settlement industry are uniquely positioned to help consumers and others keep escrow funds secure. Alliant National recently produced a white paper as part of our ongoing effort to inform agents about the threats we all face. The paper also provides real-life tips and strategies for preventing, detecting, and responding to BEC/EAC escrow fraud. I’ll be back next week with a post exploring some of the most common types of escrow fraud schemes. Until then, feel free to download our white paper, and let’s all whack that mole! ]]>

Welcome, New Hire: Richard K. Jones

Richard K. Jones brings fresh insight, industry experience to the team

LONGMONT, Colo. – The nation’s largest title insurance underwriter with no direct or affiliate operations today announced the hiring of Richard K. Jones, as its Western Regional Counsel and Vice President. Jones brings over 25 years of title insurance industry experience to Alliant National, with particular expertise in underwriting, regulatory and compliance issues, as well as an extensive background in business strategy and agency operations. He will provide input on the policies and direction of Alliant National as well as providing underwriting for the independent title agencies in the Western Region. “Alliant National’s culture and business vision is exciting, fresh and dynamic,” Jones said. “I am eager to become a member of this growing, pioneering title insurance industry firm. Their commitment to independent title agents and their uninterrupted success of the last decade is impressive.” Born in Tennessee, Jones has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He was previously an officer and Regional Counsel at Old Republic National Title Insurance Company. He also held management and leadership roles at United General Title Insurance Company and its related companies. Jones has served as Chairman of the Colorado Division of Insurance Title Advisory Committee, President of the Land Title Association of Colorado and Chairman of the Colorado Interprofessional Committee. “We are delighted Rich Jones has joined us at Alliant National,” Phyllis J. Mulder, CTIA, Chief Legal Officer and Executive Vice President said. “In addition to being a title industry leader and top-notch underwriting counsel, Rich enjoys working with independent agents – so he is a perfect fit for our company.” Alliant National is an industry pioneer that distinguishes itself from competitors by putting the interests of agents first. Bolstered by financial stability, strong underwriting capability and independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets, the company has established a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced and continuously growing. It’s the largest title insurance underwriter in the country with no direct operations to compete against its agents, with agents holding more than 50 percent of ownership in the company. Alliant National’s CEO, Bob Grubb, can be reached at 303.682.9800 x300 or bgrubb@alliantnational.com. Visit joinalliantnational.com for additional information.

About Alliant National Title Insurance Company

The Independent Underwriter for The Independent Agent® Alliant National believes in putting other people first. The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 400+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 22 states, with annual revenues exceeding $110 million. ###
This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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