Lone Star Title was again thankful and excited to provide title and escrow services for the Aldeia West Apartments in Houston, Texas. The complex is conveniently located in Houston with quick and easy access to Interstate 10 and Interstate 610 and is central to the many shopping, dining, and entertainment options that the area has to offer, including Katy Mills Shopping Center and the Energy Corridor District. Aldeia West Apartments is located in the Katy Independent School District and near many area hospitals, including Methodist Hospital and Memorial Hermann Medical Center.
Lone star title is excited to announce the promotion of Bernie Del Hierro to Branch Manager of our Gateway East operation. There, Bernie and his team will continue to serve as closing office for Desert View Homes as well as capitalize on new strategic growth opportunities in both resale and commercial sales business. Bernie is a native El Pasoan who brings with him a plethora of real estate and financial industry experience. He has a vast background over the past 17 years in both commodity trading and commercial and multi-family real estate and he very much looks forward to serving his past associates as well as continuing to develop new relationships within the El Paso Real Estate Community. Take a moment to stop by our 7910 Gateway East office to welcome Bernie!
Just the other day I received what appeared to be a fraudulent real estate closing email – complete with wire instructions and all!
Because this is not all that uncommon, I immediately recognized it as a wire fraud phishing attempt.
However, as I re-read the email, I began to think about all of the people I know who might mistake this as a legitimate email; especially if they are currently in the process of buying or selling a home or are active real estate agents.
This realization was disheartening, to say the least…
Below you’ll find the both the red and green flags that I found while analyzing the email, and best ways to train your team, staff, partners, buyers and sellers so they don’t become a victim.
At first blush the email appears it could be legitimate. This is especially the case if you deal with similar emails day in and day out for your real estate business, mortgage company, law firm, or if you are in the process of buying to selling real estate.
Here are some common industry terms that the sender used that made the email appear legitimate.
- “E & O Policy”
- “chain of title”
- “Wiring instructions”
- “Prelim CD”
- “CPL” or Closing Protection Letter
Other Subtle Details
Besides the industry jargon, the sender did a good job wording the email in a casual but professional way. Below are a few subtle details and phrases that one might see in legitimate emails like this.
- “Attached is the new contract.”
- “Contract is enclosed via encrypted secure OUTLOOK365 PDF format.” This type of security is common in the industry.
- “Realtor” is capitalized.
- The area code in the phone number matches the city and state that is listed on the address in the signature line
- The law firm and the logo appear to be legitimate.
As you can see there are many factors working against the recipient of this email. All the sender needs is for one person to believe the email in order to steal funds.
This email is obviously fraudulent, or at least a mistake at best if you are not buying or selling real estate.
But theoretically let’s say you and your clients do have some real estate transactions pending.
If that is the case, what are some ways you can spot that this is a fraudulent email?
The first subtle clue for me was that I didn’t recognize the person’s name.
So next look at the sender’s job title of “Loan Officer Assistant” and I think maybe this is the assistant of the person who I was working with.
The mention of the “Melbourne Processing” being “cc’d” is a little strange to me because I don’t see any other email addresses copied on the email.
Because I am from the title industry, the huge red flag for me was the mention of a wire transfer followed by all caps: “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, PLEASE”.
But what if I was a first-time homebuyer? That phrase alone might cause me to take quick action on the email.
It is scary to think that your clients could potentially lose their life savings from an email like this.
A few other subtle red flags-
There are several other subtle red flags that appear as we studied the email critically but might go unnoticed.
One of which is the reference to the PDF attachment. The actual attachment appears to be an HTML, not a PDF.
Next, when we looked at the signature line and who actually sent the email in the headers (To, From, CC, etc.) the email addresses don’t match. The email in the signature appears legitimate but the sender email is very strange.
Often times email clients like Outlook or Gmail don’t show the sender email address by default. They typically only show the person’s name so this one might be difficult for many to catch.
How to recognize a fraudulent email-
The bottom line is that it is important to warn all parties with which you work about the fraudulent emails that have been circulating and the general threats to our industry via wire fraud attempts.
Here is a great video and instructions that ALTA released recently that you are welcome to share or post to your website to help educate the people you work with.
To make this easier for you Lone Star Title condensed this article into a PDF summary of a wire fraud warnings and how to protect yourself.
View and download it here and share it with your staff, buyers, sellers, Realtors, Lenders, and other partners!
Lone Star Title is working tirelessly to be sure that our entire company and our customers are well educated and aware of the threats to our industry. Together, we can keep your transactions safe & secure and get them to the closing table successfully!
Until next time,
Note: The preceding is for educational purposes only. We are not law enforcement or lawyers and this is not legal advice. You should always consult with law enforcement, your legal counsel, insurance providers, and respective underwriters to make sure you adhere to the policies they have set forth related to wire fraud emails. (Informational Source: titletap)
Lone Star Title was excited and blessed to provide title services for the sale of the El Paso Suburu dealership at 1414 Airway. This acquisition was part of Group 1 Auto’s continued foray in to the El Paso Market and coincided with their acquisition of Audi of El Paso as well as the continued progress on their upcoming Northwest El Paso Porsche dealership. According to The El Paso Times, Pete DeLongchamps, a Group 1 executive in Houston said, ‘We’re very bullish on the El Paso market,’. ‘We think it’s a growing town, a growing market. ‘It’s a very consistent market,’ he said. Auto 1 operates 117 car dealerships in the United States, 42 in the United Kingdom, and 16 in Brazil. PHOTO: VIC KOLENC/EL PASO TIMES
Lone Star Title was pleased and thankful to provide title services for the sale of the El Paso Audi dealership at 1444 Airway. This acquisition was part of Group 1 Auto’s continued foray in to the El Paso Market and coincided with their acquisition of Suburu of El Paso as well as the continued progress on their upcoming Northwest El Paso Porsche dealership. PHOTO: VIC KOLENC/EL PASO TIMES
Lone Star Title was honored to act as the title company of choice for the sale of this beautiful complex. Northchase Village Apartments are located in Houston’s Champion Forest neighborhood of North Houston is located right off of Cypress Creek Parkway. The property enjoys a prime location near the many shopping, dining, and entertainment options that the area has to offer, including Willowbrook Mall. The Bohannon Development Organization developed, constructed and managed this complex known for quality finishes and extraordinary amenities.
Not often do properties such as the MacGuire Ranch become available for purchase so Lone Star Title was pleased to have served as the title company of choice on this milestone transaction. This 26,400+ acre ranch in west Texas is located primarily at the top of the Diablo Plateau, just north of Sierra Blanca. Brokered by Chas Middleton & Son.
Calling El Paso REALTORS!!! To make your clients familiar with the ins and outs of the buying or selling process, does your title company send a welcome video and roadmap from contract to closing to each and every buyer and seller you place under contract? We Do. This is one of the countless reasons we are El Paso’s Favorite title company!
Last week, Vicki Brewer and our commercial team were pleased to close on this iconic, 110 year old Downtown El Paso building. The landmark building is home to BBVA Compass Bank, El Diario’s top-floor executive suites and the El Paso Fire Department. The sale also included two large surface parking lots in the surrounding area. We continue to be humbled beyond measure by our community’s faith in us to get their real estate transactions closed successfully, time and time again!
This exciting project is being spearheaded by not 1 but 3 El Paso architects. They have partnered to make their first big investment, purchasing this nondescript downtown El Paso building where internationally celebrated and local El Paso artist, Tom Lea once housed his studio. The building is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings and the group has plans for ground floor retail and upper floor loft-style living space. Lone Star was pleased to provide title insurance and settlement services for this exciting DTEP project!