How (Un)Lucky are You? 

June 22, 2017

By Michelle Korsmo

A few years ago, a fraudulent $1.1 million wire transfer forced an unlucky California escrow company into bankruptcy. The case was an early example of the growing threat of wire fraud, involving both phishing and hacking to get real estate professionals and consumers to wire money directly to fake accounts.

These insidious attacks seem to hit email boxes daily. According to a survey from Accenture, one in three targeted cyberattacks over the past 12 months resulted in a security breach. Despite this alarming number of incidents, 75 percent of respondents were “confident” they were doing the right things with their security strategies. A similar number said security is “completely embedded” in their cultures, with support from the highest-level executives.

A disconnect between the number of incidents and over-confident security strategies, according to Accenture, highlights the need for a “reboot” and for companies to “embrace an end-to-end approach to recognizing threats and minimizing exposure.”

This is a serious issue and it’s why we’ve asked the CFPB to issue a consumer alert and raise awareness about these threats. Cyberattacks, especially wire fraud, is one of the main issues that keep title professionals up at night. It’s one of the reasons ALTA’s Board of Governors created an Information Security Committee last year to examine security threats that affect our membership. Your leaders understand the importance of keeping membership abreast of the latest scams. The committee develops cyber awareness, prevention, detection and response/recovery methods for the industry. The committee produces quarterly security alerts to inform membership on various topics that will range from encryption and security for electronic devices to virus and spyware defense. (Check out the first quarter edition: First Quarter: Social Engineering and Phishing)

Most wire fraud scams have focused on hackers breaking into professionals’ email accounts to learn about upcoming transactions, then emailing the buyer to wire money to the hacker’s account. However, new scenarios pop up weekly. The evolving nature of these schemes is why constant education is needed.

Be vigilant, educate your staff and do what you can to avoid being unlucky.

Michelle Korsmo is chief executive officer of the ALTA.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].