It is frightening to think of how criminals find out about specific transactions and the parties who are involved, and then capture the contact information for all of the principals. Such was the case in this scenario.
One day at the gym, one of Chicago Title’s buyers, Betty Buyer, received a text message — supposedly from Chicago Title that stated:
Good Morning Betty Buyer, This is Jane Doe Escrow Officer from Chicago Title Co. We noticed that the notary forgot to include your ID on your closing package he sent to us. Are there any possibilities you could snap and send me a copy of your Driver’s License ID to avoid any closing delays. Please advise!
The customer responded that she could provide a copy later and asked whether Chicago Title would prefer an emailed copy or a text. The response was, “Text it here pls.” Unfortunately, Betty did text a copy of her ID and afterwards, the imposter further asked if she had sent a wire yet.
This triggered alarm bells for Betty, and she examined the text message more closely. Betty realized the number had a 217 area code associated with Illinois, not the expected area code for Chicago Title. Betty then picked up the phone and called the office directly. Chicago Title confirmed that they had not texted Betty and that it must be someone attempting to gain sensitive information, as well as potentially attempt to divert funds.
The Escrow Officer jumped into action, calling all the agents and principals to make them aware there had been a potential breach, or at the least, that someone was able to gather enough public information regarding the transaction to contact the buyer and appear legitimate. The Escrow Officer also notified the Company’s security team to conduct a review of her computing system. The review confirmed a lack of intrusion into Chicago Title’s system.
The Escrow Officer further let the principals and parties know to only communicate via a known trusted phone number going forward and stated that all requests should be confirmed at the known trusted phone number of the requestor.
Luckily, through multiple warnings and initial disclosures enough red flags were present for the customer to realize a fraudster was attempting to intercede in the transaction.
Things to note:
• Always check all communications and verify it is the correct source before responding.
• Any change to wire instructions is an absolute indication of fraud.
• Wire fraud is rampant so be vigilant.
• Fraudsters tirelessly work to conceal their identity and to assume the role of someone within the transaction.
• We always set a consistent means of communication between the Escrow Officer & and the principals which may help raise awareness when a fraudster tries to intervene.
Article provided by contributing author:
Scott Cummins, Advisory Director
FNTG/National Escrow Administration