February 17, 2017
Missouri Insurance Department Recommends Title Agencies “Verify and Call Back” Before Sending Payments
Jefferson City, Mo. - The Missouri Department of Insurance recently concluded several investigations related to fraudulent email schemes during title insurance transactions. In each instance, an email was received changing the original instructions for disbursement of funds previously provided by a consumer. The scheme makes it appear that the email is from a bank, realtor or party to the closing transaction. The email instructs funds to be directed to a different bank account or stops payment on an escrow check delivered at closing and direct funds be wired to another bank account or to a party not related to the transaction.
To prevent these schemes, the department suggests that title insurers, title agencies and title agents educate their staff about fraudulent email schemes and to implement procedures to “verify and call back” to the consumer, ensuring the instructions are correct.
Recognizing red flags is critical in preventing these crimes.
- Email address has been altered
- Initial wire instructions are changed at any point during the transaction by any party to the transaction
- Bank account name is not a party to the transaction
- Instructions for “immediate action” or language suggesting “urgency” or “anger”
Reporting the fraud immediately is important. Contact the title insurer, title agency or title agent that handled the closing or disbursement of the escrow funds so they can report the fraudulent scheme to the appropriate lending institution’s Fraud Department and contact your bank or lending institution’s Fraud Department to report the incident. You can also contact:
- local law enforcement
- FBI at 1-800-225-5324 or FBI St. Louis Field Office at 314-589-2500 or FBI Kansas City Field Office at 816-512-8200 or https://tips.fbi.gov/
- Missouri Attorney General Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-392-8222 or www.ago.mo.gov
- Missouri Department of Insurance Investigations Section at 573-751-1922 or 800-726-7390 online at www.insurance.mo.gov or email firstname.lastname@example.org