05/17/2022

ALTA Announces Technical Correction to Co-Insurance – Multiple Policies Endorsement

ALTA announced that on May 12 a technical correction was issued for the 2021 ALTA 23.1-06 (Co-Insurance – Multiple Policies) Endorsement. 

This technical correction represents conforming changes:

  • Allows the references to the 12-series Endorsements that are found within 23.1 to reference either the 2006 or 2021 series 12-series ALTA Endorsements, by bracketing the “-06”:

Below is the existing 23.1-06 Endorsement, with the references to the 12 series Endorsements highlighted:

Policy correction 1

Below is this 23.1 technical correction, with the conforming changes allowing for reference to either the 2006 or 2021 versions of the 12 Series Endorsements, by bracketing of the -06:

Policy correction 2

  • Modify the header, versioning and naming convention to match the 2021 styles:

The naming and versioning convention used in the 23.1-06 Endorsement was implemented as follows:

Policy correction 3

The naming and versioning convention is being changed in this technical correction 23.1 Endorsement to conform to the 2021 Standards as follows:

Policy correction 4

Click here to access the forms, including the technical correction.

04/14/2022

Pioneer Title Works to ‘Leave Things Better’

Arizona-based strives to "Leave Things Better” by supporting the communities where its employees live and work.

One of its many initiatives supports the Arizona Housing Fund and Northern Arizona Housing Fund, making a $75,000 combined contribution in the past year.

The donation is thanks to an initiative where Realtors, buyers, sellers and Pioneer Title employees donate to either organization as part of the closing process. For every dollar donated, Pioneer Title match 100% of the contribution up to $100,000, for a total donation of $200,000.

It comes on the heels of the company's Commitment 2 Community Initiative, a partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation that helped provide more than $140,000 in grants to non-profit organizations across Arizona. Grant recipients were nominated and voted on by team members across Arizona. Pioneer Title formed C2C in May 2020 to connect to their communities and give back despite the pandemic restrictions.

Share Your #GoodDeeds

ALTA wants to know how your company supports your communities and local markets. Send your stories and photos to communications@alta.org.

04/07/2022

Stay Vigilant Against Business Email Compromise, Phishing Emails

Like title and settlement companies, email from ALTA staff can be spoofed. In the latest scheme, a phishing email appears to come from Chantelle McPherson, asking recipients to fill out the attached letter and send it back.

Do not open the attachment or click any links in the email. It's recommended to use extra precaution when reviewing email on smart phones as it can be difficult to see the actual email address behind the sender's name. This is a phishing scam. ALTA’s system was not breached.

If you happen to click on a link or open an attachment from a phishing email, contact your IT department. Below is an example of what the phishing email looks like:

CM Phishing Attempt

Red Flags

Title and settlement companies can protect themselves by increasing staff awareness about these scams. According to the FBI, businesses that deploy robust internal prevention techniques at all levels (especially training front-line employees who may be targeted by initial phishing attempts), have proven highly successful in recognizing and deflecting email scam attempts. Here are some red flags:

  • A customer’s seemingly legitimate emailed transaction instructions contain different language, timing, and amounts than previously verified and authentic transaction instructions.
  • Transaction instructions originate from an email account closely resembling a known customer’s email account; however, the email address has been slightly altered by adding, changing, or deleting one or more characters. For example:
    • Legitimate email: john-doe@abc.com
    • Fraudulent email: john-doe@bcd.com
  • Emailed transaction instructions direct payment to a known beneficiary; however, the beneficiary’s account information is different from what was previously used.
  • Emailed transaction instructions direct wire transfers to a foreign bank account that has been documented in customer complaints as the destination of fraudulent transactions.
  • Emailed transaction instructions direct payment to a beneficiary with which the customer has no payment history or documented business relationship, and the payment is in an amount similar to or in excess of payments sent to beneficiaries whom the customer has historically paid.
  • Emailed transaction instructions include markings, assertions, or language designating the transaction request as “Urgent,” “Secret,” or “Confidential.”
  • Emailed transaction instructions are delivered in a way that would give the financial institution limited time or opportunity to confirm the authenticity of the requested transaction.
  • Emailed transaction instructions originate from a customer’s employee who is a newly authorized person on the account or is an authorized person who has not previously sent wire transfer instructions.

What If You Get Phished?

According to the FTC, companies impersonated as part of an email phishing scam should notify customers as soon as possible, contact law enforcement, provide resources for affected consumers and review their own security practices. Offering immediate advice and support can help companies retain customer goodwill. Here are tips on how to respond if your business is impersonated in a phishing scam:

Notify consumers of the scam. If you are alerted to a phishing scam in which fraudsters are impersonating your business, inform your customers as soon as possible. If your business has a social media presence, announce the scam on your social media sites and warn customers to ignore suspicious emails or texts purporting to be from your company. You can also inform your customers of the phishing scam by email or letter. The important point is to remind your customers that legitimate businesses like yours would never solicit sensitive personal information through insecure channels like email or text messages.

Contact law enforcement. If you become aware that criminals are impersonating your business, report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Suggest that affected customers forward any phishing emails impersonating your business to the Anti Phishing Working Group (www.antiphishing.org), a public-private partnership against cybercrime.

Provide resources for affected consumers. If consumers believe they may be victims of identity theft because of a phishing scam, direct them to identitytheft.gov/, where they can report and get resources to help them recover from identity theft. For more information about recommended computer security practices, direct consumers to resources on the FTC’s consumer information site, where they can learn how to protect themselves online and avoid future phishing attacks.

Phishing-aba-infographic-780px

03/31/2022

Tie With Title

Tiewith title
Title Team employees help make blankets for their "Tie With Title" campaign.

The Title Team's office in Minot, N.D. “Tie With Title” campaign recently celebrated its fifth year of making blankets for those in need.

On March 28, the group came together and made 51 blankets in one day.

Over the past five years, employees of The Title Team have made and given away more than 1,100 blankets to ambulance services, police departments, fire departments, homeless shelters and individuals in need.

03/24/2022

ALTA SPRINGBOARD: How to Achieve a Human-centric Digital Transformation

Oneill

Businesses can’t ignore the need for digitization, and humanity can’t ignore the need for purpose and meaning. The best and ultimately most successful approach to digital transformation strategy is one that starts with strategic purpose, uses ongoing data and results to improve, and achieves sustainable business success.

During the Westcor-sponsored Idea Festival at the 2022 ALTA SPRINGBOARD in Tampa, Fla., tech humanist Kate O’Neill shared insight to help attendees better understand the human impact of emerging technologies.

Companies like Google, Etsy, Cisco, and have turned to O'Neill to get a reality check and be successful and respectful with human-centric data and technology.

O’Neill has spent her career helping companies, organizations, cities, museums and entities of all kinds solve strategic problems arising from integrating data and emerging technology into their business model and operations.

She said the best and ultimately most successful approach to digital transformation strategy is one that starts with strategic purpose, uses ongoing data and results to improve, and achieves sustainable business success.

“This is a different way to think about the future. When we talk about it as a concept, we either think its dystopia or utopia,” O’Neill said. “The either-or framing doesn’t help. We need to think holistically. The future won’t be either of these things. It’s what we make of it. We get to make choices about the processes and technology we adopt and the experiences we provide.”

O’Neill said to prepare for a world where everything is connected, we need “to build our best technology, grow our best businesses and become our best selves.”

O’Neill encouraged attendees to create the best futures for the most people by developing opportunities for the most people to thrive.

“Data is about people,” she said. “When you hear tech, think human experiences. Remember to orient everything in that direction to serve the people who need to be served. Emerging tech will add capacity and scale like never before.”

O’Neill shared how the new Amazon Go convenience stores operate and could impact human interaction. The stores are cashierless and partially automated with customers able to purchase products without being checked out by a cashier or using a self-checkout station.

Basically, the customer scans their phone, shops and walks out. Everything gets scanned as the customer walks through gate and gets charged to their account. O’Neill said there are some rules: anything you take off a shelf is automatically added to the virtual cart.

“Since products you take go into your cart, you can’t take things for other shoppers,” she said.,

O’Neill said Amazon plans to roll this out into Whole Foods and plan to open 2,000 stores across the country.

“If we are saying it’s OK to not help each other in that environment, we’re saying its OK not to help people in any environment,” O’Neill said. “Experience at scale changes culture. Experience at scale is culture. It’s a profound thing to think about.

Her point is that businesses need to think about the experiences they want people to have. As digital closings evolve, title companies will want to think of how homebuyers will feel during a remote closing.

O’Neill encourages companies to use humanizing language. Instead of always saying “users” or “customers,” say “people” when you mean “people.” Get clear on what human problems you’re trying to solve at scale, and encourage teams to translate their own work into how it helps the company solve those problems, she said.

O’Neill also mentioned a quote from Bill Gates, which highlighted how automation can enhance processes, not fix broken ones.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency,” Gates said.

O’Neill believes that AI and some of the other emerging technologies will have capacity and scale like never before. This means we have an ever-increasing obligation to think responsibly about the world we are building through their use.

“Humans can’t leave meaning up to machines,” O’Neill said. “Look for tech that moves us forward but do it with a purpose that moves your company forward. Subtle nuances are not AI’s strong suit.”

03/23/2022

Cyber Losses Hit $6.9B in 2021

2021 FBI cyber lossesAmerica experienced an unprecedented increase in cyberattacks and malicious cyber activity as U.S. consumers lost $6.9 billion to internet crime in 2021, according to the latest report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

According to the report, the FBI received 847,376 cybercrime complaints in 2021, an increase of 7 percent from the year before. That amounts to one complaint every 37 seconds. Losses relating to Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) increased by 33 percent over the previous year, with the per-incident loss increasing from $92,932 in 2020 to $120,277 in 2021. BEC and EAC scams accounted for nearly 35 percent of all losses reported to the IC3 in 2021.

Real estate/rental cybercrime losses reached $350 million in 2021, up from $213 million in losses in 2020. The number of victims, however, decreased to 11,578 from 13,638 in 2020.

“Companies in the title and settlement industry continue to follow policies and procedures to help safeguard real estate funds,” said Diane Tomb, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, cyber criminals continue to get smarter and are focused on larger amounts to divert to fraudulent accounts. Homebuyers paying cash for properties may have a higher risk of being tricked into sending funds to fraudulent accounts. Working with our partners involved in the real estate transaction, along with government officials, our members continue to educate people about how they can protect their money when purchasing a home or refinancing a mortgage, so they continue to trust and have confidence in our digital world.”

With the median price of a home in the U.S. now exceeding $350,000, according to the National Association of Realtors, cash buyers are wiring large sums of money to title and escrow companies for closing. Cyber perpetrators are aware of these market dynamics and are deploying scams to trick home buyers into wiring closing funds to fraudulent accounts.

ALTA’s advocacy team recently secured a  win on the crucial legislative priority of wire fraud in real estate. Report language ALTA requested was included in the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law. This language directs the FBI to release a public report on the threat of BEC scams and to increase collaboration with industry and other private sector partners.

"We are eager to continue work with federal agencies on this issue and help the title insurance industry deal with the onslaught of these scams that harm consumers," Tomb said. "These efforts build on ALTA’s strategic priority to address threats to our customers' privacy and investment.”

Cybercrime was reported across all age groups but victims over the age of 40 accounted for 74 percent of reported losses. As the real estate sector was hit hard by BEC and EAC scams last year, victims between the ages of 20 and 29 reported losses that were 118 percent higher than the prior year—the greatest increase of all age groups tracked in the report. This age group accounts for a large portion of first-time home buyers and work-from-home employees, which may account for the sharp year-over-year increase.

A low inventory level for existing homes has created one of the tightest housing markets in U.S. history, which adds stress to buyers seeking to enter the market. By the end of the process, buyers are often fatigued and exhausted, making them more susceptible to falling victim to a wire fraud as they are asked to send money for their closing. Education, awareness and securely exchanging wiring instructions can help lower the wire fraud risk. 

“Buyers are under tremendous pressure to present the most competitive offer possible, or they face losing the opportunity to secure a home,” said Tom Cronkright, executive chairman of CertifID. “This has resulted in more buyers paying cash for properties, which places their closing funds at risk of being stolen by wire fraud scams.”

Reports of cryptocurrency being used in cyber-related crime increased by nearly 550, percent as reported losses climbed from $246 million in 2020 to $1.6 billion in 2021. Cryptocurrency is becoming the preferred method of payment for all types of cyber scams according to the report. 

Ransomware experienced another sharp increase in reported losses, which totaled $49.2 million – a 69 percent increase over 2020.  The three most common ransomware variants that targeted critical infrastructure companies were CONTI, LockBit and REvil/Sodinokibi according to the FBI. 

“These cyberattacks compromised businesses in an extensive array of business sectors as well as the American public,” said Paul Abbatte, deputy director of the FBI. “As the cyber threat evolves and becomes increasingly intertwined with traditional foreign intelligence threats and emerging technologies, the FBI continues to leverage our unique authorities and partnerships to impose risks and consequences on our nation’s cyber adversaries.”

03/22/2022

ALTA SPRINGBOARD: Shift Your Brilliance

Bailey

Industries are being transformed at the speed of light. To keep pace, individuals within an organization must raise the bar on their performance and reset their mindset. The leadership skills of yesterday will not carry in today’s continually evolving economy.

During the 2022 ALTA SPRINGBOARD in Tampa, Fla., author, entrepreneur and life coach Simon Bailey shared tips on how people can find their brilliance.

He said that “every single person has brilliance within them. The problem is that this brilliance often gets buried by society’s rigid rules on how we are allowed to use our talents and abilities. It’s only when we learn to shift our way of thinking that we can find our spark.”

Bailey said employees and companies must shift and embrace new methodologies to survive, compete, and thrive through the ever-changing demographic, technological, and regulatory marketplace changes that affect businesses today. The traditional winning formulas of yesterday will not hold up to the technological solutions that will continue to automate “traditional” business processes.

“There will come a time when you have to let go of the old to embrace the new,” Bailey said. “This has to happen so you can grow and expand. When that happens, that’s the invitation to shift.”

One of the first steps to achieve brilliance is to own the moment. Bailey said moments create momentum, which creates monumental results. People need to realize that setbacks are a setup for a comeback, Bailey said.

In a world where businesses are struggling to attract talent, it’s important to remember people want to work where they are celebrated. Bailey encouraged attendees to not think they have jobs to offer but are providing opportunities. He shared results of a Gallup poll that discovered seven out of 10 people are stressed out at work Managers need to take the time to ask about employees’ well-being and provide feedback.

“It’s the breakfast of champions. Ask if employees feel valued,” Bailey said.

He shared a few examples of what companies are doing to improve morale. One business lets staff rate meetings from one to five whether it was worth their time.  Another organization takes hikes during the middle of the afternoon in an effort to “own the moment in our culture.”

“Sometimes you need to get out of the environment and talk about things that have nothing to do with the business,” Bailey said. “Creating play causes stickiness.”

In order to create moments, it’s important to upgrade your verbal software. Bailey said people must be intentional with their words and come from a place of kindness and hope.

“Be present when you’re listening to people,” he said. “Think about if you need to ask another question. How do you complement and celebrate where they are?”

Creating a moment also starts with how someone wants to receive information. Bailey related this to the book “The Five Love Languages,” which details five different ways of expressing and receiving love. These include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. In business, these translate to feedback and mentorship; workplace bonding; new opportunities and challenges; support; and encouraging touchpoints.

“When I relate to the cargo in your ship, we have a relationship,” Bailey said.

He provided these five tips to create a moment:

  1. Be creative
  2. Have adaptability
  3. Collaboration
  4. Tell a story
  5. Be emotionally intelligent

Concluding his presentation, Bailey challenged attendees to develop and nurture five key relationships. He also encouraged everyone to continue their pursuit of learning. Bailey said Pixar requires employees take four hours of education classes per week. The company wants its employees to constantly learn.

“You have a variety of resources at ALTA to keep learning and growing your career. ALTA will work if you work it,” Bailey said.

03/16/2022

ALTA SPRINGBOARD: The Secrets of Influence

Levy

Are you curious why people make the decisions they make and how to affect them? The world scientific community has amassed astounding research on human behavior but virtually none of it is applied. During an Idea Festival at the 2022 ALTA SPRINGBOARD, behavioral scientist Jon Levy helped more than 300 attendees learn how to apply cutting-edge science to help them influence their customers.

Sponsored by First American, Levy offered insight on how to influence decisions people make and how to use that knowledge to market, sell and create more loyal customers.

To open his presentation, Levy had attendees guess the application that’s in the lower right-hand corner of their phone. He did the same exercise again but asked people what the time that was on the phone.

“People have no idea. It’s not a flaw of the brain, but how it’s designed. If we have to pay attention to everything, we would go crazy,” Levy said.

The behavioral scientist said that most of life takes place in our blind spots, “where we think we know what’s going on but really don’t.”

More than 10 years ago, Levy was broke. He realized to have an extraordinary life, needed to surround himself with exceptional people. The work of professors Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler inspired him. In their research, they found that who you know influences your entire life. The correlation was deep whether you talked about weight gain, your odds of divorce, happiness, success, etc.

“The found that not only are we influenced by our friends, we’re influenced by our friend’s friends,” Levy said.

To get the most out of the people Levy admired in the world, he conducted a social experiment. He created a secret dining experience to bring influential people together to positively affect each other—including himself. Influential people prepare a meal together. During the cooking experience, they aren’t allowed to share their occupation or even their last name. During the meal, they play a game to discover what each person does for work. The participants found out they were sitting next to Nobel Laureates, Olympians, celebrities, editor-in-chief of a major magazine, an Oscar winner, a Grammy winner, etc.

Over the years, Levy has hosted over 2,000 people at over 227 dinners.

Levy said the dinners led him to think about what impacts quality of life. He’s a zealot for the importance of building connections. The quality of someone’s life, their career and overall happiness is a byproduct of who they are connected to, Levy said.

Connections between people are spurred in general by things that are familiar to them, and common friends and activities. “If you want to connect, you need to expose commonalities that make us feel safe.” Levy said.

In the traditional business world, people would take someone out to dinner and try to find a common bond. However, you can’t buy a relationship. It takes work. Levy said this is a critical blind spot. In reality, relationships are spurred by something he called the Ikea effect—based on the store that requires the furniture you buy to be put together before you can use it. You can apply this principle to building deep bonds with other people, Levy said.

If you want to get someone’s interest, Levy believes it’s better to email and ask if they have a favorite book. Find a small thing you can ask of people. It could be their opinion or their expertise. “You can’t just be a taker,” Levy said.

Fo years, he didn’t understand why this worked. “It turns out, there is this misconception of trust,” Levy said. “There’s this belief that trust proceeds vulnerability. It’s actually the other way around. If you both can be vulnerable, then trust skyrockets.”

Levy told attendees that he used to think he couldn’t bother anyone and that he could handle everything himself. “I didn’t realize how much I was preventing people from connecting and trusting me. If I asked for support, I thought I’d be viewed as incompetent,” Levy added. “Small screw ups make us more perfect. People who make small mistakes and shows your vulnerability. We think if we look perfect, we will be liked more.”

Levy offered some easy solutions to help leaders keep build trust with their employees.

  • Change how you run team meetings. Give staff an opportunity to feel engaged and connected.
  • Play online games such as Kahoot or Quiplash.
  • During video calls, put thing about you in your background and let people ask questions.
  • If don’t have a nice background, make a virtual one.
  • Get people to discuss passion topics.
  • Give staff a photo of the team to remind them of a sense of belonging.
  • Sour and sweet: Have people share something good and something bad.
  • Have staff discuss their proudest career accomplishment.
  • Include pets and children during calls if appropriate. This humanizes you and makes you often more endearing.

03/15/2022

ALTA Good Deeds Foundation Awards $130K in Grants

The ALTA Good Deeds Foundation announced it awarded $130,000 in grants to 20 charities during the 2022 ALTA SPRINGBOARD event in Tampa, Fla.

“The Board of the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation was excited to review more than 70 applications from ALTA members nominating organizations that have made a significant impact on their communities,” said Foundation Board Chair Mary O’Donnell, president and CEO of Westcor Land Title Insurance Co. in Maitland, Fla. “The Foundation was created with the belief that ‘good deeds grow communities,’ and we are delighted to award these grants and prepare for the next round in the fall.”

Twenty $6,000 grants were awarded to charities supported by ALTA members, including Family Promise in Salt Lake City, a nonprofit organization that helps local families experiencing homelessness find lasting independence and security. Additionally, due to Russia’s large-scale invasion on the Ukraine, the Foundation awarded a $10,000 emergency grant to the World Central Kitchen (WCK), a not-for-profit organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. Founded in 2010 by celebrity Chef José Andrés, WCK currently is serving thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families fleeing the devastation as well as those who remain in their country.

The other grants were awarded to: Adult and Teen Challenge, Watsonville, Calif.; Bellevue Together Inc., Bellevue, Neb.; Big Brothers Big Sisters Buck County, Jamison, Pa.; Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity, Boise, Idaho; C.A.L.M. Organization Inc., Niceville, Fla.; CASA of Lancaster County, Lancaster, Pa.; Covington Ladies Home Inc., Covington, Ky.; FBH Community Inc., Daytona Beach, Fla.; Heathers Houses Foundation Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Help for Hungry and Homeless, Waldorf, Md.; Home Again Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Ark.; Mary’s Kitchen, Orange, Calif.; Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif.; RMHC of Arkoma, Springdale, Ark.; Room to Dream Foundation, Newton, Mass.; STEAMpark Inc., Asbury Park, N.J.; The Life of a Single Mom, Baton Rouge, La.; The Mirth Project, Powell, Ohio; and Thrive Clermont, Clermont, Fla.

Thrive
Thrive Clermont was one of 20 charities that received a $6,000 grant from the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation in March.

“ALTA members work tirelessly to support their communities, both in their roles as title professionals and in their personal lives as volunteers and charitable givers,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb, Foundation board member. “To date, the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation has been able to award $423,000 to 69 organizations. That means ALTA members have made a significant impact in 69 communities across the United States through their service and donations. Our goal this year is to increase our total funds raised to $1 million dollars so that we can grow the Foundation’s reach and help even more neighborhoods around the nation.”

The ALTA Good Deeds Foundation was launched in 2020 to bolster the charitable efforts of ALTA members. Grants are awarded every year in March and October.

Click here to donate.

03/09/2022

War in Ukraine Increases Cyber Risk: Social Engineering Red Flags

Cyberattacks on businesses and government agencies have increased following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the risk of spillover cyberattacks against non-primary targets becoming much more widespread.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urged corporate leaders to prepare for attacks and adapt their C-suites accordingly.

"We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyberattack against the Homeland if it perceived a U.S. or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security," according to a bulletin from the DHS Intelligence and Analysis bulletin.

Some immediate actions that can be taken to strengthen cyber posture include:    

  • Enable multifactor authentication
  • Set antivirus and antimalware programs to conduct regular scans
  • Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching end users
  • Update software
  • Filter network traffic

Experts also expect an increase in sophisticated social engineering schemes centered around the war. Avanan, an email cybersecurity firm, reported an 800% increase in phishing attacks since February 27.

“We are seeing cybercriminals use Russia and Ukraine-centric social engineering efforts, like phishing emails, leveraging current events to solicit an emotional response to the war,” says Ros Smothers, former CIA cyber threat analyst and technical intelligence officer, now at KnowBe4. “In other words, people are less likely to think before they click.”

Here are some social engineering red flags to help protect yourself and your company:

Social Engineering Red Flags

Additional information