FBI agents on a football field working together as a team to fight cyber criminals.

BEC Fraud Nears $3B Mark In 2023 In Latest IC3 Report

Calling cybersecurity “the ultimate team sport,” the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) emphasized its ongoing commitment to working with local law enforcement and private industry to combat evolving cyber threats in the U.S. in its recent 2023 Internet Crime Report.

The report, released in March, highlighted investment fraud and business email compromise (BEC) fraud as the two most expensive fraud types in 2023, with investment fraud increasing from $3.31 billion in 2022 to $4.57 billion in 2023 — a 38% increase, and BEC logging 21,489 complaints amounting to $2.9 billion in reported losses.

“Today’s cyber landscape is threatened by a multitude of malicious actors who have the tools to conduct large-scale fraud schemes, hold our money and data for ransom, and endanger our national security,” the FBI noted in its executive summary. “The FBI continues to combat this evolving cyber threat. Our strategy focuses on building strong partnerships with the private sector; removing threats from U.S. networks; pulling back the cloak of anonymity many of these actors hide behind; and hitting cybercriminals where it hurts: their wallets, including their virtual wallets.”

IC3’s Recovery Asset Team (RAT), established in 2018 to facilitate the freezing of funds involved in cybercrime, was able to initiate the Financial Fraud Kill Chain (FFKC) on 3,008 incidents in 2023, with potential losses of $758.05 million. A monetary hold was placed on $538.39 million, representing a success rate of 71%.

In its report, the FBI emphasized the importance and value of victims reporting cyber incidents to IC3.

“Your reporting is critical for our efforts to pursue adversaries, share intelligence with our partners, and protect your fellow citizens,” the FBI noted. “Cybersecurity is the ultimate team sport, and we are in this fight together.”

For professionals involved in real estate transactions, RAT is a significant ally, as the organization has developed the deep insight and resources needed to identify, track and convict cyber criminals.

By creating a strong liaison between law enforcement and financial institutions, RAT is able to assist in the identification of potentially fraudulent accounts, stay at the forefront of emerging trends, and foster a symbiotic relationship where information is shared.

New concerns emerge

The IC3 report noted increasing concern for situations where fraudsters prompt victims to send wires directly to third-party payment processors. Funds are quickly dispersed in such cases, making it more difficult to recover the money.

The FBI is also seeing an increase in fraudsters using custodial accounts at financial institutions or cryptocurrency platforms, where the funds are quickly swallowed up.

“With these increased tactics of funds going directly to cryptocurrency platforms and third-party payment processors or through a custodial account held at a financial institution, it emphasizes the importance of leveraging two-factor or multi-factor authentication as an additional security layer,” the agency noted. “Procedures should be put in place to verify payments and purchase requests outside of email communication and can include direct phone calls but to a known verified number and not relying on information or phone numbers included in the email communication.”

Other best practices include:

  • Carefully examining the email address and URL
  • Reviewing the wording and spelling in the correspondence
  • Refraining from clicking on links requesting you update or verify account information
  • Refusing requests to supply login credentials or personal information via email
  • Training employees on the red flags of fraud
  • Providing staff with ongoing training on how to handle suspected fraud

Wire fraud guidance

As in past years, the FBI reminded real estate professionals involved in wiring funds to put in place strict verification measures should a wire change be requested during the course of a transaction.

In addition, the FBI emphasized the critical need for title agents who are victims of wire fraud to act quickly when the fraud is detected, advising they contact the originating financial institution to request a recall or reversal and a Hold Harmless Letter or Letter of Indemnity.

They also encouraged victims to file a detailed complaint with www.ic3.gov providing as much data as possible to broaden the organization’s ability to track cybercriminals.

Ransomware on the rise

Ransomware incidents were also on the rise in 2023, with 2,825 complaints reported and losses up 74% from $34.3 million to $59.6 million.

In its report, the FBI emphasized that it does not encourage paying the ransom since it will effectively embolden criminals to target more victims.

“Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that an entity’s files will be recovered,” the FBI reminded. “Regardless of whether you or your organization decided to pay the ransom, the FBI urges you to report ransomware incidents to the IC3. Doing so provides investigators with the critical information they need to track ransomware attackers, hold them accountable under U.S. law, and prevent future attacks.”

Light Gray Divider Line

At Alliant National, we are committed to keeping you updated on the latest cybersecurity threats and providing you and your staff with information and tools to help protect your customers and your agency. SecureMyTransaction from Alliant National is an advanced fraud prevention solution built exclusively for independent title professionals. The system helps agents avoid risks posed by wire fraud, identity fraud and vacant property fraud by automating the information you need to move transactions forward with confidence. SecureMyTransaction leverages AI technology that covers and crosschecks:

  • Identification
  • ID instrument validation (US and 200 countries)
  • Bank account validation and ownership
  • Payoff and proceeds verification
  • OFAC searches (FinCEN included in the OFAC feed)
  • Alliant National Underwriting alerts

Learn more at www.securemytransaction.com or contact your agency representative to schedule a demo.

dark photo of a disheveled man in a business suit standing next to washing machines that are laundering money

Beyond GTOs: FinCEN Proposes Expansion Of Industry Reporting Requirements

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Feb. 7 to expand its efforts on a permanent basis to combat and deter money laundering through the residential real estate sector.

According to the FinCEN announcement, the proposed rule would require professionals involved in real estate closings and settlements to report information to FinCEN about non-financed transfers of residential real estate to legal entities and trusts.

“Illicit actors are exploiting the U.S. residential real estate market to launder and hide the proceeds of serious crimes with anonymity, while law-abiding Americans bear the cost of inflated housing prices,” said FinCEN Director Andrea Gacki. “Today marks an important step toward not only curbing abuse of the U.S. residential real estate sector but safeguarding our economic and national security.”

Expansion of GTO efforts

Since 2016, FinCEN has issued multiple Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) requiring title insurance companies to file reports on all-cash purchases having specific dollar thresholds in designated geographic areas. These GTOs last for six months at a time. The most recent GTO was issued in October 2023 and expanded the list of affected venues.

According to FinCEN’s proposed rule, expanded reporting requirements would apply on a permanent basis across the entire country, without limit to specific geographic locations or a dollar threshold. The agency will accept comments on the new proposed rule for a 60-day period following its publication in the Federal Register, scheduled for Feb. 16. According to the American Land Title Association’s (ALTA) blog of Feb. 8, FinCEN has proposed that the final rule become effective one year after it is issued.

“We are still reviewing the proposed rule and will work to ensure that FinCEN considers the information they are collecting under the new Beneficial Ownership rule, among other things, so as not to be unnecessarily duplicative and also provide clarity regarding the obligations of all real estate parties under the rule,” said Diane Tomb, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “We also appreciate, and intend to continue, the ongoing dialogue with FinCEN to craft a tailored approach limiting the transactions that must be reported to those of the greatest concern and providing avenues to help reduce the compliance burden on title and settlement companies.”

Proposed reporting structure

The proposed rule would require reporting on transfers of single-family houses, townhouses, condominiums, and cooperatives, as well as buildings designed for occupancy by one to four families. Going a step beyond the GTOs, it would also require reporting on transfers of vacant or unimproved land that is zoned, or for which a permit has been issued, for occupancy by one to four families.  Furthermore, both purchasing entities and transferee trusts are reportable unless a specific exception is applicable.

ALTA’s Feb. 8 blog summarizes reportable information under the proposed rule to include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Name, address and taxpayer identification number (TIN) for the transferee and transferor.
  • Beneficial owner information for the transferee and anyone signing the transfer documents. (names, date of birth, addresses and TINs for those individuals).
  • Name, DOB, address and TIN for all transferors on title or the beneficial owners if the seller is an entity.
  • Address and legal description of the property.
  • information about the payments made by or on behalf of the transferee.
  • Information about any hard money or other lender not subject to anti-money laundering rules. That participated in the deal.
  • Individuals representing the transferee entity or transferee trust.
  • The business filing the report.

For a more detailed summary of requirements and exceptions under the proposed rule, please see the  Fact Sheet published by FinCEN. At Alliant National, we are committed to keeping you updated on legislation and regulations that affect your business. Stay tuned for more, as the comment period progresses.

graphic welcoming Theresa Kane-Mackenzie to Alliant National

Alliant National Welcomes Theresa Kane-Mackenzie as AVP & State Agency Manager Pennsylvania & New Jersey

Kane-Mackenzie will help lead Alliant National’s operations in the region.

Longmont, CO — (January 16, 2024) — Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, is pleased to announce the hiring of Theresa Kane-Mackenzie as AVP & State Agency Manager PA & NJ.

Kane-Mackenzie comes to Alliant National with over 25 years of experience in the real estate and title insurance industries. She has worked for companies ranging from national underwriters to providers of specialized technology solutions for title insurers. She also brings along vast expertise in underwriting, real estate technology, title production, continuing education and customer service. By pairing this industry knowledge with her person-centered approach throughout her career, Kane-Mackenzie has gained unique insight into the market and routinely delivered the best possible results for Pennsylvania and New Jersey title agents.

At Alliant National, Kane-Mackenzie will be at the helm of the company’s operations and expansion efforts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She will work collaboratively with policy-issuing agents to strengthen and streamline their procedures, processes, and workflows. She will also assist with business planning and continuing education initiatives. In keeping with Alliant National’s mission, Kane-Mackenzie will channel these activities toward empowering independent title agents to grow their businesses while increasing the company’s market share in the region.

“With her 25+ years of experience in both agency and vendor relations, Theresa is a tremendous addition to our regional agency team,” said Manoj Purohit, Senior Vice President, Great Lakes Regional Manager for Alliant National Title Insurance Company, in discussing her hiring. “She will be an integral part of our expansion into the Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets, and we are excited to have her at Alliant National.”

“It is a pleasure to join Alliant National as it grows its presence across Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” said Kane-Mackenzie. “Since it began operating in 2005, Alliant National has become the premier independent underwriter for the independent agent. I am looking forward to becoming part of this team of incredible title professionals and delivering business gains for our policy-issuing agents.”

Kane-Mackenzie is an active member of the Pennsylvania Land Title Association (PLTA). She has previously served on the board of several trade and philanthropic organizations. She currently lives in New Jersey with her family.  

Alliant National supports its independent agents by combining expert residential and commercial underwriting with a passionate heart for service. The company delivers uncommon help that promotes the well-being of agents and the communities they serve.

Media Inquiries

Adam Mohrbacher
Clockwork Public Relations
e: amohrbacher@clockworkpr.net
p: 651.587.4792

About Alliant National Title Insurance Company

Alliant National is on a mission to empower independent agents while protecting property owners with secure title insurance. The company partners with its agents and never competes against them with direct or affiliate operations. Alliant National serves thousands of title professionals as a licensed underwriter in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information and follow Alliant National on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest company updates.

Crime Watch Banner with computer hacker in the background and people celebrating in the foreground

Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program Caps Off Another Successful Year

Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program is a great example of the old saying that the best defense is a good offense. Designed to incentivize Alliant National’s policy-issuing agents to detect and prevent fraud, the program had a banner year during 2023. Working together, Alliant National’s network of agents prevented scores of fraudulent transactions from going forward over the past 12 months. These efforts not only protected against sizable losses but helped promote a safer and more secure industry. Now that the year has wrapped up, let’s dig into the numbers.

A problem of incredible scope

With property information readily available with a click of the mouse, it is easier than ever for bad actors to research and identify potential targets. The result has naturally been a huge uptick in criminal activity over the last few years. In fact, FBI data indicates that “more than 13,000 people were victims of wire fraud in the real estate and rental sector in 2020, with losses of more than $213 million — an increase of 380% since 2017.”[i]

Fighting fraud requires all hands on deck

To help empower independent agents and assist the title industry in combating fraud, Alliant National initiated its Crime Watch Program several years ago. The initiative rewards agents $1,000 each time they prevent a fraudulent transaction – and the results have been impressive. Year after year, Alliant National’s agents have helped stem the tide of criminals targeting the industry, identifying fraudulent behavior and saving consumers from financial loss and unnecessary stress.

During the program’s lifespan, we’ve seen a number of best practices to help prevent fraud:

  • Never accept wire instructions over email.
  • Double-check all contact information. Then, check it again.
  • Always send wire instructions through a secure, encrypted communication channel.
  • Pay particular attention to any last-minute changes with a transaction, especially with wire transfer information.
  • Speak directly to clients to make sure they are who they say they are.
  • Become as familiar as you can with the history of the property you’re working with and watch for any irregularities.
  • Stay current with all continuing education classes to remain apprised of the latest developments in title fraud and cybercrime.
  • Trust your gut when something feels off and work closely with colleagues to have a unified front against fraudsters.
  • Use real world examples of fraudulent activity to educate colleagues or employees on how to spot fraud.
  • Have a response plan in place if a fraudster is able to get around your agency’s defenses.

2023 was a successful year of fraud busting

For Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program in 2023, past successes were prelude to a tremendous year of fraud busting. Collectively, agents identified and prevented over 25 instances of fraud, totaling more than $280 million in proposed liability. The agents involved in stopping these fraudsters came from a variety of states – including Florida, Missouri and Texas – and the specifics of each fraudulent transaction also ran the gamut. Some of the top schemes encountered by agents included:  

  • Business email compromise
  • Seller impersonation
  • Fraudulent contracts
  • Fraudulent documents like passports
  • Fraudulent cashiers’ checks

Let’s stop fraudsters in 2024

Everyone has their own New Years’ resolutions, but for the title insurance industry, one of the most important should be taking all available actions to detect and ultimately prevent fraud. Since the inception of Alliant National’s crime watch program, we have seen how powerful it is when agents proactively address suspicious transactions. While not all fraud can be prevented, the program is a testament to what the industry can do when it unites against criminals.

Want to learn more about Alliant National’s crime watch program and how your agency can get rewarded for stopping fraudsters? Start here.


[i] Wire Fraud (nar.realtor)

rear view of woman in front of crossroad fork junction road split in 2 different ways

2024: Steady Economy, Static Real Estate Market

The overall economy is expected to fare well in 2024 according to experts from across the spectrum, but the dramatic drop seen in real estate sales, coupled with a virtually non-existent refinance market, will likely keep title orders depressed.

The macro-economic picture has certainly brightened in recent months as an anticipated recession failed to materialize in 2023. Now forecasters are increasingly calling for a “soft landing” in 2024. Goldman Sachs is especially optimistic, projecting U.S. GDP growth to hit 2.1% in 2024 compared to other economists who see growth in the 1-1.8% range for the year.

“It was fair to wonder last year whether labor market overheating and an at times unsettling high inflation mindset could be reversed painlessly,” said David Mericle, Goldman Sachs Research chief US economist, in a recent economic report. “But these problems now look largely solved, the conditions for inflation to return to target are in place, and the heaviest blows from monetary and fiscal tightening are well behind us.”

Joe Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM, a global network of independent assurance, tax and consulting firms, sees a slow first quarter for GDP, followed by an uptick to 1.8% in the second half of 2024 and accelerating into 2025.

“We expect that policy tailwinds from both the fiscal and monetary authorities will set the stage for strong productivity and growth in the years ahead as inflation eases back to a much more tolerable range,” Brusuelas said in his 2024 outlook report in the December edition of The Real Economy.

While all indications point to economic fundamentals being strong enough to keep the overall U.S. economy on stable ground in 2024, real estate sales are likely to remain stagnant due to low consumer confidence, high interest rates and lack of inventory. The refinance market will be in the same boat, as current mortgage holders will likely be unwilling to relinquish their low interest rates.

Consumer confidence

Viewed through a consumer lens, The Conference Board remains pessimistic, noting in its November forecast that the economy is likely to buckle early in the year, leading to a short and shallow recession.

“This outlook is associated with numerous factors, including elevated inflation, high interest rates, dissipating pandemic savings, rising consumer debt, and the resumption of mandatory student loan repayments,” they noted. “We forecast that real GDP will grow by 2.4% in 2023, and then fall to 0.8% in 2024.”

On the upside, consumer confidence was up 2.9% in November after three months of decline. The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, however, fell to 46 in Q4 2023, down from 48 in the third quarter, as most business leaders are also anticipating a mild recession in early 2024.

Interest rates keep real estate in deep freeze

With interest rates hovering near 7% as we begin the New Year, prospective homebuyers will continue to face a double conundrum in 2024:

  • High interest rates have put many listed properties in the unaffordable range; and
  • Fewer homes are coming on the market as homeowners with low rates are staying put.

Some relief is on the horizon as homebuilders remain cautiously in the market to fill the supply gap. Many regions of the country are reporting strong new home sales, as homebuyers ready and willing to invest drift away from the paltry supply of existing homes to the new home market.

Freddie Mac statistics support this idea, with the GSE reporting that existing home sales were at their lowest level in 13 years in the month of September, but new home sales were showing remarkable resilience.

“New home sales have taken on increased importance for the housing market as the share of total home sales that are new increased to 16.1%, the highest share since 2005,” Freddie Mac reported. “The U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that new home sales in September 2023 were at an annualized rate of 759,000, up 12.3% from August and 33.9% from September 2022. Overall, the inventory of new homes for sale has decreased 5.4% from last year.”

One nugget of encouragement came following the December FOMC meeting when the Federal Reserve signaled the possibility of interest rate cuts in 2024. However, any cuts are likely to have only a marginal impact on home sales in 2024, as these cuts will come in small increments through the course of the year. Moreover, rate cuts are far from assured, as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in his remarks in December that interest rate increases are unlikely, but not off the table.

“If the economy evolves as projected, the median participant projects that the appropriate level of the federal funds rate will be 4.6 percent at the end of 2024, 3.6% at the end of 2025, and 2.9% at the end of 2026, still above the median longer-term rate,” Powell said. “These projections are not a Committee decision or plan; if the economy does not evolve as projected, the path for policy will adjust as appropriate to foster our maximum employment and price stability goals.”

Navigating the market

Interest rates, while high, are not in uncharted territory and homebuyers in the past have learned how to navigate higher interest rates through a plethora of tactics.

Real estate agents and loan officers who are knowledgeable and consultative with their customers may find a way forward by assisting their prospective homebuyers with a range of options, such as:

  • Moderating expectations towards more affordable homes
  • Encouraging buyers to increase downpayments to lower their monthly payments
  • Educating borrowers about alternative products such as adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Negotiating seller concessions
  • Working with homebuilders to moderate costs in new home construction

Of course, none of these approaches mitigates supply constraints. Luring home sellers who are locked into mortgages in the 3-4% range back into the market is going to continue to be a challenge until overall rates begin to moderate.

Keeping an eye on fundamentals

As we enter 2024, mortgage, real estate and title professionals will have their eyes on some additional key economic fundamentals − both nationally and locally − as they navigate the slow market.

Job market

Although the job market has slowed in recent months, the outlook remains strong for stable employment in 2024, with some anticipation of a modest increase in unemployment. Regional variations are likely to have some impact on the real estate outlook in specific markets.

Consumer spending

According to Goldman Sachs, real disposable income is forecast to grow nearly 3% in 2024. Solid job growth, real wage growth and an increase in interest income could keep consumer spending strong. However, forecasters with the US Chamber of Commerce report that consumers are increasingly depleting their pandemic savings and increasing credit card debt to support a faster pace of spending.

Business investment

High interest rates that are hampering the real estate market are also likely to weigh on business investment in 2024. However, if recessionary fears continue to abate, this may increasingly become a non-issue in 2024.

Final thoughts

If interest rates begin to moderate in the latter part of 2024, real estate sales could improve. In fact, there’s evidence that Millennials who have delayed household formations and homeownership could, at some point, represent a source of pent−up market demand. However, the specter of even a mild recession coupled with diminished consumer savings so necessary for a downpayment, growing credit card debt, lack of affordable housing, and high interest rates could delay a real estate market comeback well into 2025, especially for first-time homebuyers.

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