Share Your #GoodDeeds

GooddeedsCommunity is not based on our ability to physically see and touch each other, but rather the connection and care we show for each other—especially in times of need. ALTA would like to hear how you are continuing to serve your customers and communities during this uncertain and unprecedented time. We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. 

Here are three ways you can share your story with us:

  1. Email your story at communications@alta.org.
  2. Post your story in the comments section on our blog.
  3. Share your story on Facebook or Instagram, use #GoodDeeds and tag ALTA.

07/26/2021

Alert: Spoofed Email Appears to Come from ALTA

Phishing_email_tombALTA is alerting its members to delete a phishing email with the subject line “ALTA: VIOLATION IN ALTA RULES AND THE FAA.”

The email appears to come from ALTA CEO Diane Tomb and uses the domain starzbreak.com.

Do not open the attachment or click any links in the email. In addition, you should contact your IT department and block the domain of the email or the IP address that it is coming from. Once the scammers catch on, they will likely switch email domains.

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.

You can be sure that your information is safe. This is a phishing email and our system was not breached.

07/15/2021

Fannie Mae Survey: Homebuyers Remain Satisfied With Mortgage Process

Fannie survey 3

Consumers remained satisfied with their mortgage experience despite the COVID-19 pandemic and lenders moving to remote working conditions and handling record-high origination volume, according to Fannie Mae’s latest National Housing Survey.

The survey showed that 88% of recent homebuyers expressed satisfaction with the mortgage process during the first quarter of 2021. This remained unchanged from 2020.

More consumers are gradually migrating to a complete digital process. According to the survey, 12% of recent homebuyers conducted their transaction completely online during Q1 2021. This is up from 7% compared to the same period a year ago.

Additionally, 46% preferred reviewing their final loan documents online. This is up from 42% during the first quarter of 2018.

Of those who used digital channels, a majority of recent borrowers (57%) said the pandemic had no impact on their decision to use digital channels, but a reasonable proportion (38%) did indicate that the pandemic had some influence on their decision to use digital channels.

Compared to 2018, there was an increase in recent homebuyers preferring to do early mortgage tasks online, such as learning about the mortgage process or better understanding different terms and options. Tasks involved later in the process—including pre-qualification or getting updates about their loan—showed a decrease in preference for online tools. In 2020, online preference continued to hover around 50% or lower for most tasks—except submitting financial documents—which was nearly 70%. This further confirmed borrowers’ desire for continued in-person help and support as they navigate the mortgage process, according to Fannie Mae.

Fannie survey 2

Additional differences were illuminated after looking at online mortgage task preferences by race and income levels. Of the recent homebuyers surveyed in 2020, higher-income, Asian, and Black respondents showed a stronger preference for conducting mortgage tasks online, while lower-income and Hispanic consumers demonstrated a stronger preference for conducting tasks with an in-person representative or by phone.

The survey results supported the fact that a “one size fits all” digital process may not be the right approach to best meet the needs of all consumer groups. Businesses should be sensitive to the diverse needs of individuals and groups.

Fannie Mae reported it expected a larger increase in the percentage of homebuyers that wanted to use online channels for mortgage tasks.

“Consumer satisfaction in the mortgage experience remained high during the pandemic, but the change in consumers using online processes was not as large as we expected,” Fannie Mae wrote on its blog. “The shift to digital continues to be a gradual process, with certain segments showing different online servicing/in-person needs. Since buying a home is an infrequent and complicated expense, shifting to online-only channels appears to be an imperfect solution for many borrowers who have questions and want to make the right choices.”

07/07/2021

Elders Top Target of Financial Fraud

Elder financial abuseBaby boomers and older Americans have spent decades accumulating an enormous stockpile of money. At the end of this year’s first quarter, Americans age 70 and above had a net worth of nearly $35 trillion, according to Federal Reserve data.

With this accruing wealth, elder Americans have become the top target of financial fraud.

In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received a total of 791,790 complaints with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. Based on the information provided in the complaints, approximately 28% of the total fraud losses were sustained by victims over the age of 60, resulting in approximately $1 billion in losses to seniors, according to the 2020 IC3 Elder Fraud Report. This represents an increase of approximately $300 million in losses reported in 2020 versus what was reported by victims over 60 in 2019.

Confidence/romance fraud was the top crime type resulting in losses of more than $281 million for those older than 60. Business email compromise scams came in second with losses of nearly $169 million.

Losses from crimes involving real estate/rentals targeting elders has increased the past three years, rising from $36 million in losses in 2019 to $50 million in losses last year.

While title and settlement agents typically don’t meet the subject until the closing, it’s important to be aware of red flags and proceed cautiously when encountering irregularities or unusual situations, such as a large cash out from a refinance, proceeds being wired to an account not belonging to the senior, or a relative or caretaker who shows too much interest in the transaction for no apparent reason. 

When a transaction closes involving elder abuse, the new owner or lender’s title may be subject to challenge by the senior that can result in substantial loss to the underwriter. In addition, the title and settlement agent may be exposed to tort or contractual liability.

The escrow or settlement agent should take note of any signs of cognitive impairment, confusion or lack of understanding of the transaction when the senior is present to sign documents before or during the closing. If a mobile notary service is utilized, the escrow agent should obtain the notary’s observations of the senior’s mental and physical state and the senior’s living situation before closing the transaction. If the senior is accompanied by an overbearing third party who has no apparent interest or role in the transaction, the settlement agent may wish to speak directly with the senior before proceeding further.

07/06/2021

Good Deeds: First American Champions Deliver

E69144FF-9F82-47DE-BA9A-B19BA93EB0E3Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people in underserved communities have experienced food insecurity—meaning they have limited or uncertain access to enough food. First American’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council partnered with its #FirstAmCares Champions to sponsor Volunteer Month in April.

Overall, the Champions campaign held over 40 virtual and in-person food drives raising $152,500 and collecting more than 15,000 pounds of food.

First American’s home office team in Santa Ana, Calif., held a drive-thru food drop that collected six truckloads of canned goods for Grandma’s House of Hope. First American teams in Arizona, along with 40 Realtors, collected over 2,300 pounds of food and raised $5,680 for several local food banks. Groups in Indiana donated 1,300 pounds of pasta and raised $1,750 to benefit Second Helpings Food Bank. First American’s Nevada Champions raised $4,000 and filled two carloads of food for the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, focusing on collecting travel-friendly items that could fit in backpacks. Offices in Idaho held a competition, collecting thousands of food and personal care items as well as raising over $2,700 in online donations. Some Wyoming branches even got their clients in on the food-drive fun, increasing donations for Needs Inc. and fostering a spirit of goodwill.

In May 2021, First American organized its second annual coast-to-coast virtual relay race to support Feeding America, raising a total of $24,050. Due to overwhelming interest, First American created teams made up of more than 260 employees from every U.S. division. The total amount raised for Feeding America was $94,221.

06/22/2021

Stay Vigilant Against Business Email Compromise, Phishing Emails

The combination of a global pandemic coupled with a world full of remote workers led to a 660 percent increase in phishing attempts since March 1, 2020, according to ID Agent.

Like title and settlement companies, email from ALTA staff can be spoofed. In the latest scheme, a phishing email appears to come from Taylor Spolidoro with the subject line “INV220621.”

Do not click on any links and delete the phishing email if you receive an email asking for this information. 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:

Taylor spoof

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.

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06/16/2021

Good Deeds: Keeping the Caring Going

Kansas-based Continental Title Co. has continued its successful #CTCCares campaign into 2021.

During the first quarter of the year, the title company has donated over $10,000 to 14 organizations.

In 2020, Continental Title donated over $49,000 to local charities.

Share Your #GoodDeeds

Over the past year, ALTA has highlighted how members continue to serve their customers and communities. We'd like to showcase what you're doing to give back. Email your stories and photos to communications@alta.org. We also encourage to you share on Facebook or Instagram, using #GoodDeeds and tagging ALTA.

Gooddeeds

06/15/2021

Good Deeds: RamQuest and Pavaso GiveBIG With Matching Campaign

RamQuest joined forces with sister company Pavaso in May for a GiveBIG charity matching campaign. As a result, a total of $4,436 was donated to 32 deserving organizations.

Throughout May, when team members donated to a non-profit of their choice, a 25% matching contribution was made to that same organization. RamQuest and Pavaso participants supported a variety of causes and organizations important to them, giving the campaign broad reach.

“It’s inspiring to see the enthusiasm everyone has to jump in and give back,” said Brooks Yeager, president of RamQuest and Pavaso. “Supporting the organizations that are important to our teams makes this GiveBIG initiative that much more impactful.”

GiveBIG is an ongoing initiative that combines the efforts of both the RamQuest and Pavaso teams to support local charities and non-profit organizations to Give Back to Ignite Good.

06/10/2021

Good Deeds: ‘Casual for a Cause’

Dominion Title & Exchange Services in Green Bay, Wis., recently launched a “casual for a cause” campaign to raise money for local charities. Employees can donate $5 to wear jeans one day of the week.

The company also started a campaign called #DominionCares where a portion of each closing fee will be donated toward one of three local organizations. Buyers can select the Golden House, Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) – Green Bay Campus or NEW Community Shelter. The Golden House provides help to domestic abuse victims. The Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) focuses on building a community where people value animals and treat them with respect and kindness. The NEW Community Shelter works with others in the community to address homelessness.

NYSLTA Donates to Feeding America

Members of the New York State Land Title Association (NYSLTA) recently contributed nearly $18,000 to four Feeding America foodbanks located across New York. This money will provide over 53,000 meals to those in need. In September 2013, the NYSLTA formed a Charitable Works Committee with the purpose of giving members to join together in participating in charitable causes.

Share Your Good Deeds

Email your company's good deeds to communications@alta.org

06/08/2021

‘Together’ in Good Deeds

In Bellevue, Neb., Tom Low and his wife volunteer at Bellevue Together, an organization that work closely with community leaders, school teacher and counselors to help those in need. 

The group has storerooms full of clothes, furniture, school supplies and other miscellaneous items. Lowe and his wife help pick up and deliver donated items donated items such as beds, bedding and furniture.

ShoesLow said many of the people who receive help are recommended by school counselors and teaches as they get to know the children and know their needs.  

“Each July, the organization invites children in need to come and get five sets of clothes, a pair of shoes, a backpack of school items and toiletries,” said Low, a commercial underwriter for Omaha, Neb.-based TitleCore National. “ We have many volunteers to help them through this process. This year, 308 children will come through our facility in July to pick out new outfits. Money and clothing items are donated by the local community. Volunteers help every week to sort cloths and other donated items, labeling them with the correct size so they can be more readily made available.”

In 2021, Bellevue Together also donated gift cards to teachers.

“This has been a hard year for them and we wanted to show them our appreciation for their hard work and making sure our kids get what they need for success in life,” Low said.

Share Your Good Deeds

Email your company's good deeds to communications@alta.org

06/03/2021

Fannie Mae Issues Guidance Regarding Remote Ink-signed Notarizations

Fannie Mae updated its Selling Guide announcing specific requirements for remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN) for loans issued on or after July 1.

Fannie Mae had issued temporary RIN guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increase in audio-visual aided notarizations, both for remote online and RIN, Fannie Mae wanted to establish broad notarization requirements, including the following:

  • Notarization must be in accordance with and in compliance with laws and regulations of the state.
  • When not required by law (but required by our policies), notarization must be recognized as valid by the law of the state where the property is located or where the notary is registered and acting under notarial authority of that jurisdiction.
  • Notarizations are acceptable when conducted outside of the U.S. if it complies with the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is performed or contains an apostille certification.

The RIN standards address documentation or authentication (including minimum audio-visual requirements), system requirements and recording capability.

Minimum Standards for Audio-visual Methods Fannie Mae_RIN

Additional requirements:

  • The lender must maintain, or cause to be retained, the recording of the portions of the notarial ceremony conducted via the audio-video technology for the greater of 10 years, or the minimum period required by applicable law, in accordance with the requirements above.
  • The mortgage loan may not be a Texas Section 50(a)(6) loan.
  • If the loan document is required to be recorded, then the county recorder in the state and county where the property is located must accept the document for recording.
  • If the document is a security instrument or an amendment to a security instrument, the audio-visual aided remote ink-signed notarization must comply with the title requirements in B7-2-04, Special Title Insurance Coverage Considerations (09/02/2020) and the title insurance company may not take any exception for the audio-visual aided remote ink-signed notarization.

ALTA supports passage of the bipartisan SECURE Notarization Act of 2021 (S. 1625), which would allow notaries in all states to perform RON transactions and create national standards requiring use of tamper-evident technology, multifactor authentication of a signer and retention of an audio-visual recording of the notarial act.

Resources for he SECURE Notarization Act