Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise

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

Mortgage Fraud Red Flag

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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Are online reviews important, and should you respond to them?

It used to be that personal recommendations solidified decisions, but in today’s fast-moving digital orbit, news about your company travels differently, and online reviews—think Yelp, Google and Facebook—are a primary source of feedback.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center concluded that 78 percent of Internet users conduct research online and believe reviews are the most credible form of advertising.

A 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Brightlocal.com reported that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and that 57 percent of consumers will only use a business if it’s rated four stars or higher.

Suffice it to say that online reviews are remarkably influential.

Not everyone responds to reviews, but there are several reasons why you should (even if they’re negative), including the fact that replying to feedback shows that you’re paying attention to your clients and customers, you’re not afraid of transparency and your business is all about building relationships.

The goal is to convert fans of your business into super-fans and offer disappointed reviewers an acceptable resolution, which often leads to a revised review or inspiration to remove a negative one. While there are multiple ways to respond to reviews – the positive and the negative – follow these tips to put the face of your business in the best light.

Be pleasant and don’t hurl insults: When a client or consumer is frustrated, they’re ready to fight. The last thing your business wants to do is fuel the fire or burn bridges, so when you’re responding to negative reviews, take a deep breath, be courteous and polite and provide solutions when feasible.

A little sympathy goes a long way in defusing an unpleasant situation. If you sense that the dialogue is taking a turn for the worse, suggest settling the matter offline, far away from judgmental public eyes. 

Keep your responses short and to the point: Social media users are looking to digest information quickly. If they want to read a novel, they’ll grab their Kindle or head to the bookstore. Keep your responses brief and genuine and stay on topic.

Thank those who post positive reviews: While handwritten “thank you” notes are, sadly, a thing of the past, clicking the “Like” button on a positive Facebook comment takes a second. Literally. Typing “Thank you for the kind words!” takes four seconds – five if your typing skills need work.

You don’t have to thank every single person, but if someone takes the time to write a favorable review, it’s a good idea to show your appreciation.

Don’t be a salesperson: When a user writes a review, it’s usually proof that they’ve already interacted with your business, so there’s no need to tell them what they already know.

If you have something new to share about your business, it’s fine to share, but make sure the content isn’t spammy or irrelevant.

Let clients and customers know that you loved working with them: Want to turn a customer or client into repeat customers or clients? If they post a glowing review, let them know how much you enjoyed working with them – and you’d welcome the opportunity to do so again.

If you want people to continue to work with your business, you need to let them know that you’re the kind of business that welcomes them back.


Real Estate Corner:
Mortgage rates are the lowest in a year and a half, but homebuyers aren’t taking the bait

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Mortgage rates continue to fall, but homebuyers aren’t impressed, writes Diane Olick, real estate reporter for CNBC.com.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 2 percent in the last week in May and were barely 0.5 percent higher than a year ago, she notes.

And despite rates that are the lowest they’ve been in a year and a half, “High prices continue to sideline buyers, especially first-time buyers, who are a growing segment of the market.

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Studies show that businesses should incorporate purpose and meaningful messaging into their branding strategies

Gone are the days when branding was limited to simply promoting a product or a business.

Today, companies are increasingly being challenged to incorporate a meaningful purpose into their marketing and advertising campaigns.

According to research, 75 percent of consumershere and abroad – expect businesses to contribute to their personal wellbeing and quality of life, while 84 percent expect brands to provide content that entertains, tells stories, provides solutions and creates experiences and events.

Purpose is especially important when marketing to millennials, 71 percent of whom say they’re partial to brands that implement environmental and social change into their campaigns.

A new biometric research report from Porter Novelli/Cone, published earlier this week, goes even further in suggesting that purposeful content should lead the narrative of your business.

“Purpose ignites physical and emotional responses: Purpose-driven advertisements were more effective in two-out-of-three brand categories tested, with higher levels of attention, emotion and arousal from these advertisements overall,” the study found.

In other words, businesses that are searching for ways to build – and maintain – customer loyalty would be wise to focus on purposeful messaging that supports, for example, responsible business practices, a charity or a social cause. 

Purpose builds deeper bonds

Other key findings in the report suggested that purpose builds deeper bonds.

A whopping 79 percent of Americans, noted the study, said they feel a deeper and more personal connection to companies with values aligned with their own. Moreover, respondents said they’d be more likely to feel better about brands with meaningful messages.

And that’s not all: “Purpose inspires brand advocates and amplification,” research showed.

After viewing purpose-driven advertisements, those who were surveyed also said they’d be more likely to talk about the advertisement and the brand with friends and family and share and discuss the advertisement on social media.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, though, is this: Nearly 73 percent of respondents said that given the current social and political climate, they feel an urgency to support social issues, while 76 percent noted that businesses dedicated to addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel like they’re doing their part.

About the study

The research combined an online study of more than 1,000 American adults with the results of biometrics testing among a select group of respondents.

It measured facial, heart rate and skin conductance impulses that captured levels of emotion, attention and arousal/stimulation upon viewing a randomized set of advertisements.

Respondents viewed two ads from the same brand: a Purpose-driven advertisement (e.g., support of a social issue, responsible business practice) and an advertisement focusing on the functional attributes of the product (e.g., performance, features or specifications).

The research found that purpose-driven messaging has a greater ability to capture the physical and emotional attention of respondents compared to functional narratives.


Real Estate Corner
The rental market is heating up—and move-in incentives are few and far between

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If you’re exploring the rental market, it may be time to lower your expectations when it comes to landlord discounts, gift cards or complimentary amenities, writes Diana Olick, real estate correspondent at CNBC.com

As the rental market heats up and home ownership cools, rent prices are rising and freebies are falling out of favor.

Listings on HotPads, Zillow’s rental website, that mention at least one concession are down nearly 30 percent from the same time last year, and just one in 100 rental listings currently show any kind of move-in special.

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3 social media strategies to increase leads, likes and longevity

Remember the days prior to social media? Nor do we. Just about every business – big and small – has a designated social media manager or consultant that’s responsible for tweets, content posts, audience engagement, follows, shares, comments, insight and data reports and messaging.

It’s a big job that goes far beyond those “likes” and shares. To be a social media pro, you’ve got to master some skills.

Be creative: To stand out among your competitors, you need to create a dynamic and persuasive visual content across all your social media platforms.

Images, polls, invitations, posters, graphs, videos and illustrations don’t have to be in every post, but the eye loves visuals, and the more visuals you incorporate into your posts, the better chance you have of being noticed in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded field.

Canva, a user-friendly design tool, is terrific for creating Facebook photos and ads.

Inspire conversation: Interacting and engaging with your audience (think potential clients) is crucial to social media success – and that includes responding to comments in a timely manner.

Whether it’s a simple acknowledgement of thanks to someone who has responded positively to a post, a call to action for someone posing a question or a conversation starter that opens dialogue, you need to know how to foster communication.

That, in turn, encourages your audience to share your content, which increases your post’s longevity. And sharing content grows you audience and results in leads and “likes.”

To post engaging ads, take advantage of Facebook’s Ads Manager, a powerful tool that enables businesses to launch campaigns that reach a large audience.

Post real-time videos: Ask just about any social media pro to name the most influential social media trend of 2019, and the likely answer is live video.

Live video has the kind of human touch that doesn’t exist in text, and social media audiences can’t get enough of them.

Shooting spontaneous short videos on your smartphone and streaming them live on your social media platforms has become easier than ever with recent technological advances, and the content can range from entertaining to informative (or both). Live streams tend to be more personable and authentic than text posts, and studies have shown that social media audiences overwhelmingly prefer live video.


Real Estate Corner:
Homeowners Continue to See Housing as a Good Investment

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65% of
homeowners…

Sixty-five percent of homeowners nationwide view buying a house in their zip code as a “somewhat good” or “very good” financial investment, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Housing Expectations.

As well, existing homeowners are eager to invest more in their homes, says the report, noting that the percentage of homeowners expecting to invest at least $5,000 in their homes over the next one to three years continues to increase.

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