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

03/08/2022

Women’s History Month: Title Industry Proves to be Successful Career Path for Female Entrepreneurs

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Rodriguez

Marlen Rodriguez knows the opportunity the title insurance industry provides women looking for a career. Last fall, the industry veteran launched Miami-based New Dawn Title Group to serve Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The new endeavor came after she previously ran her own company for over a decade, served as president of a privately-owned affiliated title company and worked for a national underwriter.

Along the way, she’s hired and trained women in the 2000s who are now thriving and leading successful title companies today.

“When I first opened my own company in 1999, one of the things that I loved offering jobs to single mothers—women and people in general who couldn't afford to go get a higher education,” Rodriguez said. “The ability to pay it forward like that and help the next generation is one of the greatest reasons to get into the business. The title industry is a great it's a great career where one doesn't have to go through the traditional college and get their bachelor's or master's degree, and still make a really good living.”

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LaPlante

Like others in the industry, Eileen LaPlante, vice president at Star Title Agency in Michigan, has seen the industry evolve over the years. When she started working in the industry in the late 1990s in Traverse County, Mich., LaPlante said there were about 15 title examiners. Only two were women. A decade later, that percentage flipped.

“I've always kind of thought it was a right brain left brain thing,” she said. “Women are, I think, more familiar with the multitasking unit of our day-to-day experiences. We're used to having children and grandchildren needing all kinds of different things at once. Title insurance can kind of be like a romper room some days.”

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Wysong Berg

Elizabeth Wysong Berg NTP, national agency vice president for education and training for Fidelity National Financial Family of Companies, says the industry’s focus on customer service plays into women’s skillset. She said most often, women are also the caretakers at home and juggling many to keep the family running, like getting children to and from school, washing clothes, packing snacks and making sure everyone gets to after-school activities. Many women naturally gravitate to that caretaker role in the title industry.

“That's what we're doing for our customers: we are in a caretaker role. If a closer is closing, they are taking care of their customer and making sure that they are served,” Wysong Berg said. “An examiner is doing the same thing. They're making sure that we have taken care of our customer, and they're going to have a good title and be ready to close.”

Nicole Timpanaro, CEO of Fortune Title Agency in New Jersey, agreed that women are a natural fit for work environments that require organization and efficiency. While running a title company, the flexibility has allowed her to support her family, attend school events and games. “It just allows me to manage my life better,” Timpanaro said.

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Timpanaro

“If you would have asked me if I would have recommended title insurance to a woman as a career before 2008, I probably would have told you no,” she said. “But after being in the industry and working in it for so many years and falling in love with it, I think it's actually a perfect career for a woman.”

Andi Bolin, agency sales manager for Stewart Title, has worked in the title industry for 15 years, believes that women’s empathetic nature “allows us to relate and transmit those relationships with clients.”

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Bolin

Bolin attributes her success to raising her hand and getting involved.

“You have to be the captain of your own ship,” she said. “I volunteered for things when I first joined ALTA that I had no idea how to do or what it meant, or what that entailed. But I would rather volunteer and fail than not volunteer with the apprehension of not being able to do something in the future. That's going to make me a little bit more successful, or at least put me in places where I can learn more.”

“We have to tell this story more loudly on a bigger platform. You can create an amazing career, if you just put in the time, the effort, and the energy,” Bolin added.

Scarlett First, a title agent for Kansas-based Frontier Secured Title Co., sees her ability to climb the leadership ladder. “The sky's the limit in the industry. You can go as far as you want to go,” she added.

She said the flexibility to work 15 hours one day or work a couple the next if you have a sick child is part of the attraction of the industry. The digital movement now allows more people to do much of the work from home. First says she’s seen the industry evolve and become more female-centric.

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First

“Thirty years ago, it was mostly men and three-piece suits,” First said. “I think women are starting to break the barrier and the floodgates are starting to open.”

Wendy Ethen, president of Guaranty Commercial Title in Minnesota, said her friends used to joke that she didn’t employ any males until the las few years. Her company now has three men on the 25-person staff. Ethen agrees that women’s ability to multi-task pays dividends in this industry.

“There are a lot of great opportunities for women and also a really good alternate legal career for women lawyers,” she said. “The complexity of the transactions that you work on is an opportunity to grow. We have people who pick a field and grow into that. I have one woman who's working on solar transactions and has done a lot of research. I do primarily affordable housing. So, there are all kinds of ways to specialize and to grow your career.”

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Bailey

Deborah Bailey, manager member of the Georgia-based law firm Bailey Helms Legal LLC, dreamt of a career that allowed her to interact with consumers and solve problems every day. She says women are attracted to the industry because they have lots of opportunity to problem solve.

“There are lots of problems that can arise in a transaction,” she said. “We naturally are always listening and seeking opportunities to solve those problems for our consumers.”

Bailey says there are leadership opportunities in the land title industry, adding there are few industries where you can decide one day to start a business. Women can get started just by going after their dreams, according to Bailey. The sky's the limit wherever you want to go in the title industry.

“I'm a role model for women. I'm a role model for children. And I do the best to reflect the best of my community.”

03/01/2022

Choosing and Protecting Passwords

You probably use personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords or passphrases every day: from getting money from the ATM or using your debit card in a store, to logging in to your email or your company’s VPN. Tracking all the number, letter and special character combinations may be frustrating, but these protections are important because hackers represent a real threat to your information. Often, an attack is not specifically about your account, but about using the access to your information to launch a larger attack. Many systems and services have been successfully breached because of non-secure and inadequate passwords. Once a system is compromised, it is open to exploitation by other unwanted sources.

How to choose good passwords

Most people use passwords that are based on personal information and are easy to remember. However, that also makes it easier for an attacker to crack them. Consider a four-digit PIN. Is yours a combination of the month, day, or year of your birthday? Does it contain your address or phone number? Think about how easy it is to find someone’s birthday or similar information. What about your email password—is it a word that can be found in the dictionary? If so, it may be susceptible to dictionary attacks, which attempt to guess passwords based on common words or phrases.

Although intentionally misspelling a word ("daytt" instead of "date") may offer some protection against dictionary attacks, an even better method is to rely on a series of words and use memory techniques, or mnemonics, to help you remember how to decode it. For example, instead of the password "hoops," use "IlTpbb" for "[I] [l]ike [T]o [p]lay [b]asket[b]all." Using both lowercase and capital letters add another layer of obscurity. Changing the same example used above to "Il!2pBb." creates a password very different from any dictionary word.

Length and complexity

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed specific guidelines for strong passwords. According to NIST guidance, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible (8–64 characters) when you can. For example, "Pattern2baseball#4mYmiemale!" would be a strong password because it has 28 characters and includes the upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. You may need to try different variations of a passphrase—for example, some applications limit the length of passwords and some do not accept spaces or certain special characters.

Dos and don'ts

Once you’ve come up with a strong, memorable password it’s tempting to reuse it—don’t! Reusing a password, even a strong one, endangers your accounts just as much as using a weak password. If attackers guess your password, they would have access to your other accounts with the same password. Use the following techniques to develop unique passwords for each of your accounts:

  • Use different passwords on different systems and accounts.
  • Use the longest password or passphrase permissible by each password system.
  • Develop mnemonics to remember complex passwords.
  • Consider using a password manager program to keep track of your passwords. (See more information below.)
  • Do not use passwords that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed.
  • Do not use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language.

How to protect your passwords

After choosing a password that's easy to remember but difficult for others to guess, do not write it down and leave it someplace where others can find it. Writing it down and leaving it in your desk, next to your computer, or, worse, taped to your computer, makes it easily accessible for someone with physical access to your office. Do not tell anyone your passwords, and watch for attackers trying to trick you through phone calls or email messages requesting that you reveal your passwords.

Programs called password managers offer the option to create randomly generated passwords for all of your accounts. You then access those strong passwords with a master password. If you use a password manager, remember to use a strong master password.

There's no guarantee that these techniques will prevent an attacker from learning your password, but they will make it more difficult.

Ransomware 101

How ransomware works
Source: CertifID

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) says ransomware identifies the drives on an infected system and begins to encrypt the files within each drive. Ransomware generally adds an extension to the encrypted files, such as .aaa, .micro, .encrypted, .ttt, .xyz, .zzz, .locky, .crypt, .cryptolocker, .vault, or&.petya, to show that the files have been encrypted—the file extension used is unique to the ransomware type.

Once the ransomware has completed file encryption, it creates and displays a file or files containing instructions on how the victim can pay the ransom. If the victim pays the ransom, the threat actor may provide a cryptographic key that the victim can use to unlock the files, making them accessible.

How is ransomware delivered?

Ransomware is commonly delivered through phishing emails or via “drive-by downloads,” according to CISA. Phishing emails often appear as though they have been sent from a legitimate organization or someone known to the victim and entice the user to click on a malicious link or open a malicious attachment. A “drive-by download” is a program that is automatically downloaded from the internet without the user’s consent or often without their knowledge. It is possible the malicious code may run after download, without user interaction. After the malicious code has been run, the computer becomes infected with ransomware.

What can I do to protect my data and networks?

  • Back up your computer. Perform frequent backups of your system and other important files, and verify your backups regularly. If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, you can restore your system to its previous state using your backups.  
  • Store your backups separately. Best practice is to store your backups on a separate device that cannot be accessed from a network, such as on an external hard drive. Once the backup is completed, make sure to disconnect the external hard drive, or separate device from the network or computer.
  • Train your organization. Organizations should ensure that they provide cybersecurity awareness training to their personnel. Ideally, organizations will have regular, mandatory cybersecurity awareness training sessions to ensure their personnel are informed about current cybersecurity threats and threat actor techniques. To improve workforce awareness, organizations can test their personnel with phishing assessments that simulate real-world phishing emails.

What can I do to prevent ransomware infections?

  • Update and patch your computer. Ensure your applications and operating systems (OSs) have been updated with the latest patches. Vulnerable applications and OSs are the target of most ransomware attacks.
  • Use caution with links and when entering website addresses. Be careful when clicking directly on links in emails, even if the sender appears to be someone you know. Attempt to independently verify website addresses (e.g., contact your organization's helpdesk, search the internet for the sender organization’s website or the topic mentioned in the email). Pay attention to the website addresses you click on, as well as those you enter yourself. Malicious website addresses often appear almost identical to legitimate sites, often using a slight variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com instead of .net).
  • Open email attachments with caution. Be wary of opening email attachments, even from senders you think you know, particularly when attachments are compressed files or ZIP files.
  • Keep your personal information safe. Check a website’s security to ensure the information you submit is encrypted before you provide it.
  • Verify email senders. If you are unsure whether an email is legitimate, try to verify the email’s legitimacy by contacting the sender directly. Do not click on any links in the email. If possible, use a previous (legitimate) email to ensure the contact information you have for the sender is authentic before you contact them.
  • Inform yourself. Keep yourself informed about recent cybersecurity threats and up to date on ransomware techniques.
  • Use and maintain preventative software programs. Install antivirus software, firewalls and email filters—and keep them updated—to reduce malicious network traffic.

How do I respond to a ransomware infection?

  • Isolate the infected system. Remove the infected system from all networks, and disable the computer’s wireless, Bluetooth, and any other potential networking capabilities. Ensure all shared and networked drives are disconnected whether wired or wireless.  
  • Turn off other computers and devices. Power-off and segregate (i.e., remove from the network) the infected computer(s). Power-off and segregate any other computers or devices that shared a network with the infected computer(s) that have not been fully encrypted by ransomware. If possible, collect and secure all infected and potentially infected computers and devices in a central location, making sure to clearly label any computers that have been encrypted. Powering-off and segregating infected computers and computers that have not been fully encrypted may allow for the recovery of partially encrypted files by specialists.
  • Secure your backups. Ensure that your backup data is offline and secure. If possible, scan your backup data with an antivirus program to check that it is free of malware.

What do I do if my computer is infected with ransomware?

  • Home users: immediately contact your local FBI office or local U.S. Secret Service office to request assistance.
  • Organizations: immediately report ransomware incidents to your IT helpdesk or security office.
  • All users: change all system passwords once the ransomware has been removed. 

02/01/2022

ALTA Membership ‘Worth Every Penny’

Agent membership dues chartAndi Bolin, agency sales manager for Stewart Title Guaranty Co., worked in the title industry for nearly a decade before she learned about ALTA. But once she joined and raised her hand to get involved with ALTA’s engagement groups and attend events, Bolin noticed a seismic shift in her industry knowledge and growth of her networking circle.

“Being a member of ALTA has been the most rewarding and fulfilling part of my title insurance journey,” Bolin said. “Because I have had the opportunity to meet the most incredible, amazing people and build relationships, where I can have honest, genuine conversations with people who aren't worried about me getting into their markets and making any kind of strategic moves.”

Deborah Bailey, managing member of the Georgia-based law firm Bailey Helms Legal LLC, has received more from her membership than she ever imagined.

“ALTA was that organization that I always dreamed about being a part of,” Bailey said. “It has provided me a sense of family, a place for me to grow and to develop, and to interact with people who are performing at the highest level of their profession.”

Nicole Timpanaro, CEO of Fortune Title Agency in New Jersey, described being an ALTA member as “life changing for your business.”

“There is so much knowledge that you gain from participating in the events and meeting other business owners,” she said. “The peer-to-peer interaction is just second to none. I've never attended an event where I have not come home with knowledge that has made my business better.”

Marlen Rodriquez agreed with others that the knowledge gained from attending ALTA events, as well as the resources the association provides, is second to none. Having worked in the industry since 1999 on the agency and underwriter side, Rodriquez understands the importance of being involved with ALTA. In July, she launched her own title agency, New Dawn Title Group in Florida.

“Networking with other agents from across the country has been great,” Rodriguez said. “You not only can validate some of the things that you're going through by sharing some of the same stories, and oftentimes, you get to learn by what agents in other parts of the country are going through.”

It’s support like this that helped validate ATLA’s decision earlier this year to recalibrate its dues structure. ALTA also worked with an outside consulting firm that also interviewed many members about potentially adjusting membership dues. Despite doubling the number of members served, and vastly expanding its portfolio, ALTA dues remained unchanged since 2007. Accounting for inflation, dues went down over the past 15 years.

“ALTA strives to provide you with the highest value and the best possible experience,” said ALTA Past President Bill Burding NPT. “The additional funding will enable the association to continue serving you at the optimal level that is expected. Some members may be pleasantly surprised to see their dues went down. Smaller companies with lower title insurance revenue will have a lower, discounted yearly rate.”

Elizabeth Reilly, senior privacy counsel for Fidelity National Financial, co-chairs ALTA’s Data Privacy Work Group and participates in a bevy of other groups that deal with important issues such as redaction, discriminatory covenants and information security. ALTA membership gives the opportunity to connect with people who have experience and knowledge in the industry and with others focused on niche areas important to title operations.

“I can meet with folks I wouldn't normally cross paths with,” said Reilly, who has gotten more involved with ALTA the past few years. “The opportunity to problem-solve together has been awesome.”
Reilly only wishes she became more engaged sooner.

“I've realized how much I could have gained had I become involved earlier,” she added. “ALTA is a fantastic resource for all things.”

ALTA President Dan Wold acknowledged how involvement with the association helped him advance in his career. He said the advocacy, connectivity and other benefits that you get through membership are inspiring.

“I’ve learned so much about the industry and also all of the inner workings about advocacy and the other aspects of ALTA membership that benefits our industry,” Wold said. “For me, ALTA membership is worth every penny. It is a nexus where change happens that benefits the industry.

01/27/2022

PLTA Recognized by Pennsylvania Senate

PLTA PA SenateThe Pennsylvania Land Title Association (PLTA) received a special citation from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commemorating the association’s 100 years of advocating for its members.

“Receiving this recognition from our government officials is such an honor,” said PLTA President Todd Rowe CLTP. “It further recognizes the important role our members play in facilitating successful real estate closings in the Commonwealth.”

The special citation was signed by its sponsor, Sen. John I. Kane, as well as Sen. Jake Corman, president pro tempore of the Senate.

It reads in part: “PLTA members are experts in the real estate transfer process; they conduct title searches, examinations, and closings and issue title insurance that protects real property owners and lenders against losses from defects in title … The PLTA has been serving its members and customers with care and integrity for the past 100 years …”

Founded in 1921, the PLTA celebrated its 100th anniversary in the fall of last year in Philadelphia, the birthplace of title insurance.

01/21/2022

CFPB Increases Civil Penalty for Certain RESPA Violations

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced it increased the maximum of each civil penalty under its jurisdiction, including the section of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) that addresses advance deposits in escrow accounts.

The adjustments are required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 and further amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The inflation adjustments mandated by the Inflation Adjustment Act serve to maintain the deterrent effect of civil penalties and to promote compliance with the law.

The new rule went into effect Jan. 15.

RESPA civil penalties

01/06/2022

Federal Title & Escrow Donates $5,500 During Holiday Giving Campaign 

Katt-yukawa-K0E6E0a0R3A-unsplashWashington, D.C.-based Federal Title & Escrow Co. announced the 10 beneficiaries of its inaugural Holiday Giving Campaign that invited some of the area's top real estate agents to nominate their favorite local non-profits to receive a $500 donation.

Federal Title kicked off the Holiday Giving Campaign just after Thanksgiving, working with 11 local real estate agents to identify non-profit organizations that held special meaning to them. Then, just before the Christmas holiday, Federal Title gave a $500 donation in honor of each agent and donated to 10 organizations for a total of $5,500.

"This year, we wanted to express our gratitude toward our agents and the community we serve in a more meaningful way,” said Todd Ewing, founder and CEO of Federal Title. "We received wonderful feedback on our campaign and look forward to building deeper relationships with our people by showing up for them in similar ways in the future."

Some agents shared personal stories about how they came to support their causes. One such story came from Phil Sturm, who said he has lived in the region for nearly 60 years with his family and recently took in a family of Afghan refugees through an organization called Lutheran Social Services. Another came from Jason Skipworth, who became involved with the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter after losing a "dear" great-grandmother to Alzheimer's disease.

"My desire is to help promote awareness of this incurable disease, and to raise funds for research in the hope of finding a cure," said Skipworth, who has participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's for several years and has spent countless hours advocating and volunteering. "While the world eagerly waits on a cure, the greatest things we can offer those living with Alzheimer’s is our time, attention, patience and love."

The following organizations were beneficiaries of Federal Title's inaugural Holiday Giving Campaign:

  • Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter
  • Blessed Sacrament School
  • Capital Area Food Bank
  • Goods for Good DC
  • Humane Society of Montgomery County
  • Lutheran Social Services
  • My Sister’s Place
  • Anthony Catholic School
  • Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • The Children’s Law Center
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.

12/28/2021

Top TitleNews Online Articles of 2021

Nationally, the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis continued to dominate the headlines. For the title industry, articles focused on cybersecurity and wire fraud were the most popular. Today, we begin our countdown of the most-read TitleNews Online article of the past year. Below are articles six through 10. On Thursday, we will reveal the top five most-read stories of 2021.

No. 10: FPB Finds Mistakes With Simultaneous Issue Rates on TRID Disclosures
Some lenders are inaccurately disclosing fees for lender’s title insurance on the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures in violation of Regulation Z, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) summer Supervisory Highlights report. While report focuses on lenders, title and settlement companies should take note that the CFPB is reviewing disclosure of fees and finding mistakes.
 
No. 9: Multifamily Housing Down in 2021 but Will Rebound in 2022
Regulatory and supply-side challenges coupled with slowing rent growth and rising vacancy rates will weaken the multifamily construction market in 2021. However, the development market should stabilize by 2022, according to economists from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Read on for analysis from NAHB as well as commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE.
 
No. 8: ALTA Board Approves 2021 Policy Forms
Revisions to the 2021 ALTA Policy Forms collection have been published and went into effect July 30, 2021. Recommended changes were approved by ALTA’s Board of Governors in May, for adoption on July 1, 2021.
 
No. 7: When Can Title Professionals Get COVID-19 Vaccine?
Guided by evolving federal recommendations and limited vaccine supplies, states continue to refine distribution plans that prioritize when specific workforce members and populations receive the COVID-19 vaccine. States are choosing who gets the vaccine and in what order based on various phases. Considered essential workers by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, title and settlement professionals fall into the last tier of phase one in most states. Read on for more information.
 
No. 6: Split Closings New Target of Wire Fraud
Diverting seller proceeds and mortgage payoffs appear to be happening with more frequency in markets such as Michigan and Wisconsin where split closings are commonplace.

No. 5: 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 added specific minimum standard audio-visual requirements for RIN.

No. 4: Survey: Title Professionals Targeted for Wire Fraud in a Third of all Transactions
Title insurance professionals reported cyber criminals attempted to trick employees to wire funds to a fraudulent account in a third of all real estate and mortgage transactions, according to ALTA’s 2021 Wire Fraud and Cyber Crime Survey. However, training and education seem to be working as funds were only wired to a fraudulent account in a little over 8% of these attempts.

No. 3: Criminals Using SMS Messages to Beat Multifactor Authentication
Criminals have deployed a Zelle fraud scam that allows them to infiltrate a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment service used by many financial institutions by circumventing multifactor authentication and accessing a victim’s bank account without knowing the username or password.

No. 2: Cloud-hosting Vendor Suffers Ransomware Attack
Cloudstar, which is a cloud-hosting and data security provider to title and settlement companies, was the target of a sophisticated ransomware attack in July. Several software vendors and title companies offered their expertise and services to help title companies impacted by the cybersecurity incident. 

No. 1: Wire Transfer Scheme Targets Mortgage Payoffs, Secret Service Warns
The U.S. Secret Service issued an advisory warning of a drastic increase in wire transfer fraud related to mortgage payoffs.