Over the weekend, cloud-hosting and data security provider Cloudstar fell victim to a sophisticated ransomware attack. Alliant National was not impacted, however the attack has affected many agents across the country.
As a valued partner of Alliant National please know that we will make every effort to assist you and your agency if you have been impacted by this ransomware attack. During this challenging time, we are being as pro-active as possible by contacting customers and offering assistance.
Major title software vendors including Qualia, RamQuest, and SoftPro are offering hosting services to those affected by the Cloudstar attack, and there are other third-party vendors that may be able to help as well.
We have provided Alliant National forms packages to the major escrow software providers so they can be loaded quickly and easily into your environment if needed. The National Operations Center of Alliant National is on standby should you need assistance issuing individual Closing Protection Letters outside of your operating environment. We have our agency teams standing by to help you find a closing solution should you need a closing done to mitigate your reputational risk. In short, if you have a need, please reach out today to your Alliant National contact.
Please know that Alliant National will do anything possible to assist you and your agency if you are affected by this attack.
Additional information about this industry wide outage can be found here.
The Future is Here; Let’s Embrace It
The adoption and implementation of remote online notarization (RON) received a tremendous boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers, sellers and title agents are looking to close transactions in the safest way possible. According to the American Land Title Association (ALTA), “Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have either passed a RON law or issued an executive order pertaining to remotely notarizing documents. Some have done both.”
In December of 2020, ALTA reported that RON use had increased 547 percent during the year compared to 2019. If you are a “Star Trek” fan, the lightning-fast adoption of RON – as well as alternative remote closing methods such as Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN) – has felt like the title industry has gone from cruising to warp speed in a nanosecond. It can even feel tempting to utter one of the show’s classic lines like “Beam me up, Scotty!” when thinking about such transformative change.
But let us back up a bit. As the automobile was invented and became a commonplace form of transportation, society built an accompanying infrastructure – including roads, highways, bridges and tunnels. The same is needed for RON. However, it takes time to develop secure and accessible technology that everyone can use. It requires effort to garner the acceptance of the county recorders who must be ready, willing and able to record native electronic instruments. Creating uniform laws to ensure interstate legal recognition and consumer confidence is also no easy matter.
Properly building out RON infrastructure necessitates the continuous collaboration of numerous parties, including individuals, industries and organizations. For example, MISMO, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, has been working on standards concerning credential analysis, borrower identification, audio-visual requirements (including the recording of the electronic notarization process) and audit trails. PRIA, the Property Record Industry Association, has been developing national standards and best practices for the land records industry. ALTA and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have also joined forces to establish model RON legislation. Finally, there are numerous other stakeholders not identified here who have, and are, tirelessly working to enable the requisite RON infrastructure.
Currently, the federal Senate bill (SB) 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (otherwise known as the SECURE Notarization Act), is pending. If passed in 2021, the SECURE Notarization Act will permit RON across the nation and provide for minimum standards and interstate recognition. To track the progress of the SECURE Notarization Act, click on the link provided for SB 3533.
Another good resource for tracking the evolution of RON is the DLA Piper financial services alert, which is constantly updated. You can also subscribe to their mailing list to receive alerts via email.
During this time of rapid transition, it is important to keep abreast of the latest RON developments, to “boldly go” forth and not end up like another classic science fiction show: “Lost in Space.”
The future is here; let’s embrace it!
Patrick Hagler Receives the October Research 2020 Philanthropy Award at NS3.
Denver, Colo. – (Sept. 2, 2020) Patrick Hagler, State Council-Georgia, Alliant National Title Insurance Co., has received the 2020 Philanthropy Award from October Research, LLC. The award was presented today at the 2020 National Settlement Services Summit (NS3).
The Philanthropy Award honors professionals in the title, underwriting, lending and settlement services industries for exemplary accomplishment in the area of philanthropy.
“It’s an honor to recognize Patrick Hagler for his philanthropic work outside of the office,” October Research CEO and Publisher Erica Meyer said. “We were impressed at his dedication in helping the homeless, specifically the youth, in his community.”
Currently, Hagler runs a non-profit called Loving Hands of Hope, which focuses on providing homeless teens and young adults with essential items such as clothing and hygiene kits. He is a long-time supporter of Lost and Found Youth Atlanta, an organization that facilitates counseling and other services for homeless young adults. He also volunteers with their 24-hour hotline that helps children find places to sleep and access to hot meals.
Other non-profit work includes volunteering at the Dr. Anise Mabry Foundation’s diploma program, Chris 180, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Backpack in the Park. Lastly, Hagler is a Toy Party volunteer for the Kid in All of Us organization.
Receiving this award is incredibly meaningful to me,” says Hagler, commenting on the accolade. “I was deeply affected when I started doing this work five years ago. You see people who are just looking for a little bit of compassion. Devoting some of my time to spreading warmth, love and hope is the least I can do, and I am humbled to have that work acknowledged by October Research and others in my field.”
Read More About Loving Hands of Hope.
NS3brings together more than 700 professionals from across the country for an educational experience unlike any other. For three days a roster of expert speakers and noted industry veterans share their experience with their partners across the real estate transaction.
NS3 2020 offers multiple educational tracks focused on innovation, compliance and cybersecurity. Attendees return year after year to earn CE/CLE credits, learn about the latest strategies to advance their businesses and to stay current on regulatory developments.
Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.
Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.
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ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY
The Independent Underwriter for The Independent Agent® – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive.
The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 25 states and the District of Columbia, with annual revenues exceeding $126 million.
One expert says fear of a recession could lead to one.
over a recession could be the cause of the next recession, according to Analyticom President
Dan Geller, developer of the theory of money anxiety.
explains that an increase in money anxiety can lower consumer confidence and
cause a recession by reducing consumer consumption by just 5%. Since consumer
consumption makes up about 70% of gross domestic product, a 5% reduction in
spending equals 3.5% of GDP, which is greater than the projected GDP for 2019.
In July 2019, the Money
Anxiety Index was flat at 44, the same as June, but slightly higher than May’s
42.7 points. While these figures are relatively low and don’t point to an
immediate recession, Geller explained that the constant hype about a recession
could increase the level of money anxiety.
“An example of how
recession hype can increase peoples’ perceived anxiety and reduce their
confidence in the economy can be seen in the preliminary August figures of the
Michigan Survey of Consumer Sentiment,” Geller explained. “The August index
decreased 6.4% from the previous month indicating that the level of consumer
confidence in the economy dropped in the first couple weeks of August.”
“Since the Michigan
index is based on what people think about the economy, in the form of a
questionnaire, it is highly likely that the recent recession hype influenced
the respondents’ confidence about the economy,” he explained.
Nearly half of experts
surveyed by Zillow back
in 2018 said they expect the next recession to begin sometime in 2020, according to the company’s Home Price Expectations
Survey, a quarterly survey of more than 100 real estate experts and economists.
Since then, the talk
surrounding recession has only increased as more and more experts begin to
predict a recession by late 2019 or early 2020.
There were several dire
warnings this week about the economic dangers posed by President Donald Trump’s
ramped-up trade war with China.
“On a scale of 1-10,
it’s an 11,” Cowen Managing
Director Chris Krueger said in a note to investors, describing the economic ramifications of the trade war.
In July, Zillow’s
panel of more than 100 housing experts and economists said the next
recession is expected to hit in 2020. A few even said it may begin later in 2019,
while another substantial portion predict that a recession will occur in 2021.
But unlike last time, the housing market won’t be the cause.
Amy Gregory has a passion to protect, and when a customer at
Paramount Title was defrauded of $130,000, Amy pulled out all the stops to
track down the funds and then went above and beyond to ensure no customer of
hers would ever fall victim to wire fraud again.
Our story begins with an innocuous email delivered to our
homebyer on June 18, which appeared to come from the lender’s office. The email
informed our buyer that a representative from Paramount Title would call her to
confirm receipt of the funds to close.
Someone called the buyer, but it wasn’t us. A fraudster
named “Jimmy” on the other end of the line confirmed wire instructions for a
specific bank account, with the account name referencing Paramount Title, and
instructed our buyer to send funds in the amount of $130,000.
Our buyer wired the funds.
The following day our buyer checked her account and saw the
wire had been returned to her account. She replied to the email thread with the
fraudster from the previous day asking if she knew what happened and why the
funds were returned.
The fraudster told her the company’s escrow account was
under its annual tax audit and that is why her funds were returned. Then he
gave our buyer new wiring instructions for another bank account. Our buyer
called “Jimmy,” who confirmed the new writing instructions were correct.
Our buyer wired the funds again.
On June 20, our buyer received another email from the
fraudster stating there was an issue with the wire. The fraudster asked our
buyer to call her bank and request a hold be lifted off the wire. Tragically,
our buyer called her bank and obtained the federal reference number for the
The next day a representative from the receiving bank called
to say they flagged her wire transfer and they were not going to release the
funds yet because it looked suspicious.
That’s when our buyer decided to look up the title company. She then called us, the real Paramount Title, and shared her story. Our office confirmed we don’t employ anybody by the name of “Jimmy” – and this was most definitely a case of wire fraud.
This is where Amy swoops into the picture.
Amy was quick to discuss all options for our buyer to report
the crime, including offering to report the issue on her behalf. Amy contacted our
US Secret Service agent (YES, we actually have a US Secret Service agent in our
rolodex to help us in these “special” circumstances), finally reaching him at
10 o’clock at night to discuss the details of the file.
Amy wanted to see if the agent could provide any assistance
on what our buyer could do to get her money back. She conferenced in our buyer,
so she could speak directly with the agent. The agent then offered to call the
“fraudsters” bank and see how they could help.
On June 22, thanks to Amy’s tireless efforts driven by a
passion to protect, the full amount of the wire was returned to our buyer. Our
buyer closed on her home two weeks later.
“I spoke with the client shortly after the ordeal was over,
and she expressed to me how good it felt that someone had her back through the
process,” said Andrea Somers, Compliance Officer for the Florida Agency
Network. “Amy truly goes above and beyond in everything that she does.”
But our story doesn’t end there, because Amy went above and
beyond to ensure no customer of hers would ever fall victim to wire fraud
First, she implemented the website “www.inquirebeforeyouwire.com,”
a message we now we blast everywhere we can. When we receive a new contract, our
customer is informed of this very real threat. When a customer receives an
email from us, they see the Inquire Before You Wire image. It doesn’t matter
how small, or big, the transaction is.
She also implemented additional processes where phone calls
are made to the contacts on each file, to discuss wire fraud, the current fraud
trends being seen in our industry and to lay out exactly how the client will
receive wire instructions.
What’s more, Amy decided to go one step further by achieving
the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) certification. This
achievement demonstrates Amy’s commitment and leadership in protecting our
clients and our industry. Amy feels we have a duty to protect and serve the
Amy’s passion to protect pushes our team to uphold the same
standard of care, to protect and try to prevent tragic situations involving
wire fraud from occurring on our watch again.