FNF adds digital title opening service seeking to prevent wire fraud

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Fidelity National Financial, the nation's largest title insurance underwriter, added a new digital title insurance opening package to its WireSafe homebuyer and seller program.

Business email compromise and email account compromise, a category which includes schemes that target mortgage closings among other things, had more than three times the dollar losses than the next most successful fraud last year at $1.78 billion, according to the 2019 Internet Crime Complaint Center report. By number of victims, BEC/EAC frauds ranked sixth, a sign of how lucrative it actually is.

FNF's new addition is called startSafe. It "takes this effort to a new level by immediately engaging homebuyers and sellers with one of our title companies in a secure digital workspace," Jason Nadeau, Fidelity National Financial's chief digital officer, said in a press release.

It stands as an entry point into a better, more intuitive digital consumer experience when buying or selling a home. The product "helps lessen the dependency on email and immediately introduces the consumer to an authenticated digital portal," Nadeau said. "This portal requires multifactor authentication to identify the user and mitigate risk associated with collecting information as part of the first steps in a home sale or purchase."

With startSafe, once a homebuyer or seller is authenticated, they no longer have to fill out forms or exchange emails in order to share information needed to start a real estate transaction. Transaction information is updated via an intelligent, question-based, intuitive website. In addition, it presents users with educational content about wire fraud and asked to digitally acknowledge the receipt of important wire instructions.

Besides the broader BEC category, 11,677 victims of real estate-specific fraud lost $221.4 million (the fifth-most overall), the Federal Bureau of Investigation's IC3 report said.

"With increased statistics, there is definitely work to be done," said American Land Title Association CEO Diane Tomb in a press release issued after the IC3 report came out in February. "Only a percentage of victims report their losses to IC3, so we expect to see numbers rise as we continue to encourage those in the real estate transaction to report any wire fraud activity."

ALTA is a founding partner of the Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud.

"The title and settlement industry has improved its digital hygiene and implemented many procedures to combat this fraud," Tomb added. "But no matter how much money we spend, criminals will continue to target consumers. This is why we must continue to educate people about how they can protect their money when purchasing a home or refinancing a mortgage."

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