By George T. Brannon, JR.
Cyber security is a hot topic these days. It is especially at the forefront of many people’s minds during the holiday season of heavy online shopping. Recent data breaches in large companies like Experian and Intercontinental Hotels have made everyone more aware of how important it is to keep one’s personal data protected to safeguard investments and livelihood.
It is likely you think about cyber security when you make online purchases or log into your bank account, but even transactions you may not think of as vulnerable have become a target for scammers in recent years.
For example, real estate transactions are not generally considered open to great risk for fraudulent activity, since much of the transaction procedures are completed by people in face-to-face situations. However, in 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) saw a 480% increase in the number of complaints filed by title companies that were targets of business email compromise scams.
These scams target everyone involved in a real estate transaction, and generally attempt to intercept and divert wire transfers to fraudulent accounts. Typically, an email account is compromised somewhere along the way and the fraudsters’ goal is to replace a correct email with a similar looking one that will allow him or her access to all the closing information, which gives the cyber-criminal a path to have money routed to his or her account.
Real estate transactions have become prime targets for a few reasons.
Many realtors are independent contractors, so their technology is not always properly managed in the office. There are multiple access points in each transaction (buyer, lender, title company, agent, etc.). Since the real estate market is thought of as such an in-person business, some real estate companies are not as vigilant as they should be about cyber security.
As a prospective real estate buyer, you may wonder what you can do to protect yourself from a scam of this kind.
The most important security measure you can take is to hire a technologically savvy title company to manage your closing transaction. A high-quality title company not only investigates your home’s history to see that ownership is clear and unencumbered, but also coordinates your closing with all parties. If there are any warning signs of fraudulent activity at any stage of the closing, savvy title company professionals will notice red flags and alert the necessary parties to safeguard your finances and your personal information.
SETCO Title Services agents and staff have dedicated themselves to keeping their customers’ information safe and their closing processes secure. They offer the Paperless Closer, which is an encrypted online closing system that securely stores documents and information. You can log in to the system at any time to see your closing progress, and you do not have to worry about sensitive documents becoming vulnerable to email hackers.
SETCO Services partners with Fidelity National Financial, one of the most authoritative names in underwriting and title insurance. SETCO does not take the security of your data and financial information lightly, and they have an excellent reputation in the local community for trustworthiness. With offices from Pensacola to Panama City, SETCO is a name you can count on for a safe, secure real estate transaction.
George Brannon, Jr. has fostered the growth of companies and associations using his professional mantra: “Work hard and be nice.”
Mr. Brannon is currently the Chief Operations Officer of SETCO Services.