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02/09/2021

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. As a reminder, ALTA will never ask for personal information. Do not click on any links and delete the phishing email if you receive an email asking for this information. If you happen to click on a link or open an attachment from a phishing email, contact your IT department. Also, ALTA will never try to sell mailing lists to members. Below is an example of a recent phishing email attempting to solicit information.

ALTA SPAM

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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