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The U.S. Secret Service issued an advisory warning of a drastic increase in wire transfer fraud related to real estate transactions and mortgages.

According to the alert, cybercriminals impersonate lenders with the intent to elicit payment of mortgage payoffs. The Secret Service said the criminals send fictitious or altered mortgage payoff statements to title companies.

The Secret Service provided the following tips to help prevent the fraud:
• Update policies and procedures to ensure proper verification of information before releasing funds.
• Independently obtain mortgage payoff statements and confirm with verified and trusted sources.
• Independently verify the authenticity of information included in correspondence and statement.
• Do not rely on third parties, such as mortgagors or other transaction participant, for information.
• Restrict wire transfers to known and previously verified accounts.
• Pay using checks when the information cannot be independently verified.
• Have a clear and detailed Incident Response Plan. ALTA has developed a Rapid Response Plan for Wire Fraud Incidents. Access the plan, as well as other wire fraud resources, here.
Register for the next ALTA Insights webinar to hear government officials discuss the latest cyber threats, what agencies are doing to prevent the crimes and what the industry can do to help report criminal activity.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.