Federal Sting Disrupts, Recovers $14 Million in Fraudulent Wire Transfers


Federal authorities—including the Department of Justice and the FBI—coordinated a major law enforcement effort to disrupt international Business Email compromise (BEC) schemes designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals.

The six-month sweep called Operation WireWire resulted in 74 arrests (42 in the United States), as well as the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

Criminal impersonating as sellers, Realtors, title companies or law firms during a real estate transaction are one of the most common BEC schemes identified by the FBI.

During the operation, U.S. law enforcement agents executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants, and money mule warning letters. And local and state law enforcement partners on FBI task forces across the country, with the assistance of multiple district attorney's offices, charged 15 alleged money mules for their roles in defrauding victims.

The role of money mules, witting or unwitting, in BEC schemes is very important—they are used to receive the stolen money and then transfer the funds as directed by the fraudsters. The mules usually keep a fraction of the money for their trouble.

“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”

Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began keeping track of BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise (EAC), as a complaint category, there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3. According to the FBI, BEC/EAC fraud activity was the top online crime in 2017 with reported losses of more than $675 million.


ALTA has produced a short video and an infographic to help raise awareness about wire fraud. Click here to access the resources. In addition, the ALTA Registry can serve as an effective countermeasure to wire fraud.



BuyerDocs Unveils Service That Sends Wire Instructions Via Text

BuyerDocs recently launched a service that allows companies to send text/call notifications to alert homebuyers of their wiring instructions.

This is an additional notification to the email the homebuyer also receives. Here's an example of the text message homebuyers receive:


The dialog for the phone call notification is created using Google’s text-to-speech API, which incorporates the latest machine learning networks to create realistic voices. This additional notification serves as an added security feature for closing offices and homebuyers, according to BuyerDocs.


ALTA Promotes Capitol Hill Day on Pandora

ALTA is advertising on Pandora to inform members of Congress and their staff about our upcoming Advocacy Summit and Capitol Hill day on May 23. 

Below is an image of the ad and you can also listen to the recording.



How Congress Can Help Fix Consumer Confusion When Buying a Home



How Congress Can Help Fix Consumer Confusion When Buying a Home

Pass TRID Improvement Act

Under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule, title insurance companies are not permitted to disclose available discounts for title insurance on TRID’s required disclosure forms. This creates inconsistencies in mortgage documents, causes confusion for homebuyers and undermines trust in the homebuying process. The bipartisan TRID Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 5078, S.2490) would resolve this issue by allowing the accurate disclosure of title insurance premiums. Having already passed the House unanimously in February 2018, the Senate should pass the TRID Improvement Act either as a standalone measure or as part of a larger regulatory relief package.

  • Example of how title fees are inaccurately disclosed in Missouri under current rule:

Missouri TRID_Page_1

Pass GUIDE Compliance Act

The release of the 1,888-page TRID rule has generated significant confusion. The Bureau has provided only limited guidance in response to questions and has routinely advised that the guidance is not binding.3 To address this issue, Reps. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced H.R. 5534, The “Give Useful Information to Define Effective Compliance Act” or the “GUIDE Compliance Act”. Please help us resolve this issue by supporting House passage and Senate introduction of the bipartisan GUIDE Compliance Act.

Specifically, the GUIDE Act:

  • Mandates that the director issue “guidance” that is necessary or appropriate to carry out the purpose of the laws it is responsible for including facilitating compliance
  • Defines “guidance” to include a range of written issuances from interpretative and legislative rules, to bulletins and frequently asked questions
  • Requires the bureau to publish in the Federal Register within one year of enactment the definitions, criteria, timelines and process for issuing each type of guidance the bureau shall provide, with a final rule required within 18 months of enactment
  • Prohibits liability for reliance in good faith on guidance from the bureau or any predecessor agency that was in effect at the time of such act or omission
  • Requires the bureau to establish a process and timeframes for requests for guidance, including time limits to provide answers in response to requests for guidance
  • Requires the bureau to create a process for amending or revoking guidance, including a process for public notice and comment
  • Requires the bureau to develop guidelines for determining the size of any civil money penalties and publish these guidelines in the Federal Register within 18 months of enactment


What Do Consumers Really Want from the Mortgage Process?

Consumers are getting more comfortable with a digital mortgage process but still want someone to hold their hand and explain things to them when buying a home, according to Ellie Mae’s second annual Borrower Insights Survey.

Ellie Mae surveyed 3,006 U.S. adults who are current homeowners and renters above the age of 18. With a focus on driving a true digital mortgage experience, Ellie Mae was interested in learning about borrower expectations and experiences with online components of the mortgage process. Overall findings showed that borrowers across all generations are expecting digital options to be part of their loan process, but would still like the capability and flexibility of speaking to a lender, when needed. Ellie_mae_chart1

Survey highlights include:

  • The majority (61%) of respondents expected to be able to apply for and complete a mortgage application fully online.
  • 17% of current borrower and renter respondents shared that they have applied for a mortgage in the past year; comparatively, of respondents ages 18–24, 50% said they applied for a mortgage in the past year. This demonstrates the continued momentum of the Millennial generation’s purchase power and interest in homeownership.
  • 49% of mortgage holders surveyed responded that their last experience with a lender was for a purchase, and 47% responded that their last experience with a lender was for refinancing. Respondents age 44 and under were more likely to say their last experience with a lender was for a purchase, whereas more than 55% of those age 45 and over say their last experience with a lender was for a refinance.
  • For renters, when asked what is preventing them from buying a home, 64% of respondents between ages 65 and 70 said they are happy renting, while 56% of respondents ages 25–34 say they haven’t saved enough.
  • While it’s true some may not have enough money saved to purchase a home, the survey indicated that there’s opportunity for greater education for consumers around available loan type options and how much is needed for a down payment toward a home. More than 50% of respondents age 45 and over say they believe they need to put down 20% or more to purchase a home, while 50% of 18- to 24-year-old respondents said they needed to put down between 4–19%.
  • Regardless of income, most renters agree that the suburbs are the ideal place to settle down. Those renters making $100,000 or more showed a slight preference for suburban areas if they were to buy a home (50% compared to 45% who would prefer a city/urban area). For those making less than $100,000, the gap widened with all groups saying they would be more interested in living in a suburban area.


What This Means to You

According to the survey, preferences for method of communication may vary by generation, but consumers have a strong preference for a combination of in-person interaction with their loan officer, as well as the freedom and time to complete their loan process online at their convenience.

“These trends point to a significant opportunity for more assertive lender communications that build stronger borrower relationships and accelerate the loan process,” the survey concluded. “An increasing number of high-growth lenders have recognized the potential to help reinvent the entire mortgage experience for today’s digitally integrated consumers.”

While there is untapped opportunity for lenders at the front end of the process, the same potential holds true for title and settlement agents closing transactions.

Technology can be used as a catalyst to spend less time on the process and paperwork, allowing title and settlement companies to focus on delivering an efficient and secure closing.

While many define a digital mortgage as one component of the entire process, there is a much larger opportunity to improve the entire experience for homebuyers, as well as all parties involved in the transaction.


Make an Impact: Share Your Story

ALTA needs your help!

This time each year, ALTA strives to leave a lasting impression on Congress. We want members of Congress not only to know what title insurance is and how it benefits consumers, but also who we are as title insurance professionals and what we do for each of our local communities.

The best way to get Congress members to remember you and your connection to ALTA is to share your story! Your personal stories make an impact because they show that what you do is important to the people who turn up to vote on election day.  

Stories about how we as title insurance professionals lead, deliver and protect our customers are vital to ALTA’s advocacy throughout the year. We want to hear stories about how you lead the charge by fostering an innovative culture. We want to know how you delivered a transaction that was accurate, swift and secure. Tell us how you protected property rights for everyone involved! Because you “walk the title talk” every day, you are the person best prepared to teach others the benefits of our business. We want to share with Congress how you saved the day!

To tell your story in five easy steps, take ALTA’s short survey and demonstrate your value – and the value of title insurance – to Congress.

Thank you for being an advocate!


Boost Your Marketing Efforts With These New Ads

ALTA and its Homebuyer Outreach Program Committee have developed several new advertisements for members to use as handouts to first-time homebuyers, ads for real estate clients or flyers in coffee shops. Members can customize material and download PDFs for free or order prints that can be delivered directly to your office. Check out the new ads, which include material targeting consumers, real estate agents and regulators. Click here to download the ads or purchase branded material.




2030 Marks Important Milestone for U.S. Population, Housing Market

The year 2030 marks an important demographic turning point in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections. Why? By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that one in every five residents will be retirement age.

Pop-projections-3“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” said Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau. “By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18.”

This will significantly affect the type of housing that needed in the United States. The 2030s are projected to be a transformative decade for the U.S. population. The population is expected to grow at a slower pace, age considerably and become more racially and ethnically diverse. Net international migration is projected to overtake natural increase in 2030 as the primary driver of population growth in the United States, another demographic first for the United States.

Although births are projected to be nearly four times larger than the level of net international migration in coming decades, the Census Bureau reports that the rising number of deaths will increasingly offset how much births are able to contribute to population growth. Between 2020 and 2050, the number of deaths is projected to rise substantially as the population ages and a significant share of the population, the baby boomers, age into older adulthood. As a result, the population will naturally grow very slowly, leaving net international migration to overtake natural increase as the leading cause of population growth, even as projected levels of migration remain relatively constant.

Other highlights from the census population projections:

Population Growth

  • By 2060, the United States is projected to grow by 78 million people, from about 326 million today to 404 million. The population is projected to cross the 400-million threshold in 2058.
  • In coming years, the rate at which the U.S. population grows is expected to slow down. The population is projected to grow by an average of 2.3 million people per year until 2030. But that number is expected to decline to an average of 1.8 million per year between 2030 and 2040, and continue falling to 1.5 million per year from 2040 to 2060.


  • As the population ages, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults, also known as the old-age dependency ratio, is projected to rise. By 2020, there will be about three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. By 2060, that ratio will fall to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.
  • The median age of the U.S. population is expected to grow from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.

Race and Ethnicity

  • The non-Hispanic White-alone population is projected to shrink over the coming decades, from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million in 2060—even as the U.S. population continues to grow. Their decline is driven by falling birth rates and a rising number of deaths over time among non-Hispanic Whites as that population ages. In comparison, the White-alone population, regardless of Hispanic origin, is projected to grow from about 253 million to 275 million over the same period.
  • The Two or More Races population is projected to be the fastest growing over the next several decades, followed by single-race Asians and Hispanics of any race. The causes of their growth are different, however. For Hispanics and people who are Two or More Races, their high growth rates are largely the result of high rates of natural increase, given the relatively young age structures of these populations. For Asians, the driving force behind their growth is high net international migration.


  • By 2020, less than half of children in the United States are projected to be non-Hispanic white alone (49.8 percent of the projected 73.9 million children under age 18). In comparison, about 72 percent of children are projected to be White alone, regardless of Hispanic origin.
  • The share of children who are Two or More Races is projected to more than double in coming decades, from 5.3 percent today to 11.3 percent in 2060.
  • The racial and ethnic composition of younger birth cohorts is expected to change more quickly than for older cohorts. In 2060, over one-third of children are projected to be non-Hispanic white alone compared with over one-half of older adults (36.5 percent compared with 55.1 percent, respectively).


Our Values In Action

Pic4A company’s values are the cornerstone of its culture. They are the basis of how a business functions. They set you apart from the competition, make you unique and are essential to achieving an organization’s goals.

Last year, ALTA unveiled its Our Values initiative. The values are:

  • We Lead: We are the authority in real estate transactions. We innovate for the benefit of our customers.
  • We Deliver: Our customers trust us to do the right thing, the right way—before, during and after the transaction. We sweat the small stuff to assure that land transfer is accurate, swift and secure.
  • We Protect: We protect the property rights of those we serve. We reduce risk so our customers have peace of mind.

To develop the values, ALTA spent more than a year listening to members to understand the pride they take in their work helping consumers close real estate transactions and protecting property rights. These conversations served as the foundation of Our Values and reflect the enduring, memorable and aspirational values of ALTA members.

Shortly after sharing the Our Values initiative, an ALTA member shared how her company promoted the values. Beth Ford, a sales representative for Abstract & Title had etched on glass to display in their office.

ALTA members can download a PDF of We Lead We Deliver We Protect from ALTAprints.com.

Have you used ALTA’s Our Values to develop company values? Share your story by emailing communications@alta.org.


Watch the Brand New ALTA SPRINGBOARD Video!

Let's face it, we could tell you until we're blue in the face how perfect ALTA SPRINGBOARD is for you and your organization. But when you want to try something new, who do you go to for an honest opinion? Your friends! Take a look at this short video of your title industry friends describing their experiences at the in-person event that gets you ready to share and learn new ideas: 

Convincing, aren't they? Be sure to register and save your spot at ALTA SPRINGBOARD in Atlanta, March 20-21.

If you need a hotel room, stay with your friends at the W Midtown: The room block cut-off date is February 16.

Interested in becoming a vendor at this event? Contact Claire Mitchell.

Register Today!