Use Private Email Domain to Protect Non-public Personal Information
|August 29, 2013
In an effort to reduce settlement risk and reduce fraud, a large national lender recently told ALTA there will come a time when they will stop doing business with service providers that use free email domains.
With the increased potential of fraud, the lender wants additional security when emailing money and non-public personal information. More lenders are expected to make this transition as well to increase security. To prevent potential loss of business, service providers—including title and settlement agents, abstracters and attorneys—are encouraged to obtain a private email domain, which gives you control of how it is managed and allows you to determine storage and security.
In addition to the possibility of losing business, Andy Maloney, president of Nashville Title Insurance Corp. and chair of ALTA’s Technology Committee, said there are many reasons for switching from a free email address or a domain owned by some third-party company to using your own domain name.
“It just seems unprofessional and not tech savvy to use free email for business purposes,” he said. “Further, they seem to be easily hacked and these free sites scan you emails and sell the information.”
Maloney said there are several low cost domain registration sites such as GoDaddy.com and Register.com, or even local IT providers.
According to a security engineer for a national underwriter, email from a private domain is usually more trusted than email from a free or public domain. Many free email services allow anyone to sign up, so they have a higher percentage of spammers and people sending scam emails. It can be difficult to determine if email from one of these services is legitimate, so there can be a higher risk of messages being blocked by spam filters or ignored by recipients. As an example, if someone’s email address is email@example.com, someone can sign up as firstname.lastname@example.org in order to impersonate them. It is more difficult to do that with a private domain.
If a title company has their employees use a free email service and an employee is terminated, the employee could keep using that email account and business contacts may think that person is still working for the company. The terminated employee would also have access to all of their old messages including any confidential information. Free email services do not always enforce a strong password policy, so those accounts are potentially easier to hack.
Here are some common reasons for using a domain that you own:
- It is good for the public appearance/branding of your company. Using email@example.com just does not look as professional as firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Use of a public/free email address makes your company look very small and/or not very well established, as if email is an afterthought and communications via email is not a priority.
- It makes your email address easier to remember.
- You are no longer tied to an internet service provider. If you have a Comcast.net email address, you are forever tied to Comcast. What if you want to change companies or need to move somewhere where there is no Comcast? What if you want to use some services, like encryption that the provider does not offer? By using your own domain, you have the flexibility of using pretty much any email provider you like and of changing at any time with minimal or no interruption of business-as-usual. Additionally, there is no re-printing of business cards.
Below are helpful links outline addition reasons for not using a free/public email address for business:
Making the transition to a private email domain doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. There are many companies out there that can provide email hosting services for a private domain. One service that could be used for this is Google Apps. Here are some links describing how to set this up and transfer mail and contacts from another email account:
As you get ready to transfer email to a private domain, don’t cancel your old email address just yet. First, pick your new domain name and make sure it is easy to say over the phone, easy to remember and easy to spell when someone tells you verbally what it is. You will need to select an email provider to provide email services for this domain. The provider can probably buy the domain for you and take care of setting most things up. Next, verify that your new account is up and running and that you can send and receive email from and to your new email address(es). It can take 24-48 hours for new domains to be registered and that information to propagate across the Internet.
Forwarding Email From Old Address to New One
Your old free email provider should have a mechanism or configuration option where you can forward your new inbound email to another email address. Ask their support for assistance if you can’t find it. You will want to forward email going to your old address to your new address.
Migrate Old Email to New Provider
If you have a lot of email sitting in your inbox and other folders at your old email address, you will want to copy this to the new system. If your old provider provides IMAP access to your email (so you can connect via Outlook and keep your email folders on the server, for example), you can either:
- Drag and drop your email from your old folders to your new ones at your new provider by setting up both accounts in your email program (i.e. Outlook, Mac Mail, etc.)
- Have your new provider perform an automated managed copy of all your old email to your new account(s) for you.
If your old provider does not provide IMAP access, but does provide POP access, then you can either:
Update Branded Materials
- Download all your email to your computer using POP and the copy it back up to your new account using IMAP
- Download it all to your computer using POP and keep it there
- Use a POP-download tool at your new provider to have them copy your old INBOX to your new account
Once you’ve made the switch, make sure to update business cards, letter head, envelopes, websites, and any other advertising or branded materials to show your new email address instead of your old one.
If you have a “signature,” “tagline,” or “disclaimer” at the end of your email messages, check to be sure that those too use your new email address.
Tell Your Customers
Informing contacts of your new email address is important as well. This is a good excuse to send a bulk email to your customers and vendors letting them know about your change of email address. Maybe also let them know more about your business, products or services while you are at it. If you have a large contact list, you may need to use a bulk mailing service to send these out.
At your old or new email provider, you should make an “auto responder” that emails back a notice to folks to send you messages at you new email address. This notice would inform them of the change of address. If your old provider does not have this feature, your new one may.
Don’t Use Your Old Email
At this point, you should never be using your old free email address for sending out email messages. In most cases, there is no need to disable or delete the old email address immediately or even at all. If you are not using it, it will sit idle and forward emails to your new address.
If you get a lot of spam at your old email address, you may want to stop forwarding your email as soon as you are comfortable that most people are using the new address. Or, at least be sure that your new provider has really good spam filtering. Free email providers often have security issues and are sometimes attacked. Be sure that the password to your old account is changed and is strong. Also be sure that any security questions and answers you can enter there are also hard to guess.