A Q&A with Fidelity National Financial Leaders on Fraud Prevention

Discover the insights from our conversation with FNF leaders Michele Green, Elizabeth Reilly, and Elizabeth Wysong Berg.

A Q&A with Fidelity National Financial Leaders on Fraud Prevention

Discover the insights from our conversation with FNF leaders Michele Green, Elizabeth Reilly, and Elizabeth Wysong Berg.

Fidelity National FinancialA Q&A with Fidelity National Financial Leaders on Fraud Prevention
Written by:

Claudia Lee

Read time:

5

Category:

Fraud Prevention

Published on:

Mar 25, 2024

2024 is a new frontier for real estate professionals. Long-standing industry practices are dissolving. There’s a big push for the digitization of processes. Interest rates are a roller coaster. Few industries have experienced such rapid shifts in such a short period of time.

Alongside these changes, another silent threat has also increased: wire fraud. It’s testing the resilience and readiness of real estate professionals. And it’s alarming title companies and underwriters across the country.

Fraud is everyone’s problem

Today, cybercrime is a $12.5B industry. The FBI IC3 (Internet Crimes Complaint Center) reported a 22% year-over-year increase in losses. Bad actors have set their sights on the high-dollar payouts of real estate transactions. They are taking advantage of its vulnerable entry points and the general lack of industry-wide awareness about the problem.

Fidelity National Financial (FNF) is one of the largest providers of title insurance and settlement services in the United States. As leaders, they oversee thousands of transactions daily, and in parallel, have seen the rising threat of wire fraud at every level.

We spoke with FNF leaders Michele Green, SVP of National Agency Operations, Elizabeth Reilly, Chief Privacy Officer, and Elizabeth Wysong Berg, VP for Education and Training, about the fraud prevention challenges title professionals face today, how we got here, and how to keep the industry safe moving forward. Here’s what they said.

Want to listen to this conversation? Watch a replay of the webinar above.

The need for constant learning

The panelists unanimously agreed that wire fraud education is crucial. With rapid advancements in real estate technology, fraudsters are finding new ways to take your money. Staying informed and ready to adapt is vital. 

As an advocate for wire fraud prevention for over a decade, Michele Green has seen wire fraud in nearly every form. She knows the threats of seller impersonation fraud and mortgage payoff fraud. To some, her call to arms against wire fraud might seem repetitive. But that’s exactly what opens you up to fraudsters, she warns.

“I wish it was it old, and I wish it was the white noise that some people think it is,” Green notes, “But it changes and evolves weekly. The people who say, ‘Okay, okay, I've heard about this enough. Can we stop talking about it?’ Sadly, the answer is ‘No,” she said.

For Elizabeth Reilly, the value of fraud prevention and awareness isn’t just something to manage — it’s an integral part of the industry's growth. She added that pushing for data privacy and fighting fraud go hand in hand.

“We continue to advocate for things that can counter fraud as well as for data privacy and legislation that can effectively help, rather than hinder, our role in the industry.”

Today’s title professionals take note: wire fraud isn’t going away, and can’t be ignored.

Take a collaborative approach to combating fraud

The increase in digitization across title has made information more accessible—including to the wrong people. That means protections must be applied at every stage of the transaction by all who manage it. Handling client money and data comes with big risks, and everyone from sales reps to management needs to be educated on the latest fraud prevention techniques. 

As the VP of Education and Training, Elizabeth Wysong Berg suggests that fraud prevention be considered a “team sport,” advocating for cross-regional collaboration and information sharing to enhance detection and prevention.

“It’s important to be like, ‘Okay, what are you guys seeing up in Wisconsin? Okay, does that look like what Florida is seen? Does that look like what Texas is seeing?’ And then gathering all that information so that we can do more digging and due diligence,” she says, “The more I can disseminate, the more I can break it down, and the more that we can work on this together.”

Michele echoed Elizabeth, noting that it’s everyone’s responsibility to be as informed on wire fraud as possible.

“Let’s get our sales representatives and local management as expert as they can possibly be and speak to our agents in their offices,” Green said.

But collaboration isn’t just valuable before a fraud occurs — it’s also important after an incident. With the rise in Business Email Compromise (BEC), Reilly pointed out the crucial role of legal and regulatory understanding in responding to incidents, emphasizing the importance of partnerships with banking institutions to limit damages.

“That's typically how these wired fraud starts start, right? It's with somebody. It's with that actor getting enough information to insert themselves within the transaction to redirect the wire. And so a lot of times, it's that question of ‘What are the legal obligations? What are the regulatory obligations?’ You have to keep the folks that have those relationships on the banking side to be able to freeze an account.”

Everyone has a role in fraud prevention, and finding connections between partners is a key part of the effort.

Every company needs an Incident Response Plan (IRP) 

Unfortunately, the increase in cybercrime means it’s no longer a matter of if, but when, you’ll be a target for wire fraud. Having a plan before fraud strikes is non-negotiable. Michele Green advises preparing a step-by-step process and ensuring everyone knows their role in a fraud incident. She says that treating each transaction with the utmost care, as if it were your own money, is essential.

“We can never be cavalier about moving that money,” Green says, “There was a time in our industry when wiring was far safer than it was now. How people obtain the wiring instructions was never really a top-of-mind issue for many people who've been in our industry for a long time. This is somebody else's money. If this situation goes badly, I'm going to be liable for it.”

But it’s not just your response to wire fraud, that’s important, states Elizabeth Wysong Berg. It’s also knowing how your transaction partners would act. Fraud can happen at any moment, and at any stage of the deal. 

“Are you having conversations with your realtor partners about what they are doing? What is their plan going to be? Are we talking with our industry partners about their own? What they're going to do on their worst day?” Wysong Berg asks.

Constant communication about fraud has a trickle down effect. When you're actively engaging with others and discussing wire fraud, your teams, clients, and partners will, too. It's a network effect that makes everyone safer.

Watch out for seller impersonation fraud

What's taking up most of their mind today? Seller impersonation fraud, they said. All three panelists noted an increase in the volume and complexity of these cases—and how you can never be too careful.

"The biggest evolution I see coming is in this seller impersonation space," Michele Green said, “I have seen a seller impersonation fraud that an agent fell victim to where there absolutely was a buyer's mortgage. I have seen the bad guys pay off a seller's mortgage. We're starting to see on a rapidly accelerating pace the fake sellers communicating with us in a way that we would think couldn't happen.”

For more on the signs of seller impersonation, read our blog post or watch our webinar.

Keep fraud prevention simple

In the end, it’s about trusting your gut. As an industry professional, you have an innate sense of what is — and isn’t — right during the transaction. If something feels off, it probably is. Elizabeth Wysong Berg stresses the importance of doing your due diligence.

“If you have that feeling, something's going wrong. you have to investigate. You have to stop. And we've have to talk with our partners in the industry.”

The importance of learning more and working together cannot be understated. By being alert and ready, real estate professionals can protect themselves from fraud and keep their clients' trust.

Claudia Lee

VP of Marketing

Claudia is a marketing leader who has led several global functions in enterprise IT. She has a strong track record of scaling growth through partnerships and solutions across a variety of industries.

2024 is a new frontier for real estate professionals. Long-standing industry practices are dissolving. There’s a big push for the digitization of processes. Interest rates are a roller coaster. Few industries have experienced such rapid shifts in such a short period of time.

Alongside these changes, another silent threat has also increased: wire fraud. It’s testing the resilience and readiness of real estate professionals. And it’s alarming title companies and underwriters across the country.

Fraud is everyone’s problem

Today, cybercrime is a $12.5B industry. The FBI IC3 (Internet Crimes Complaint Center) reported a 22% year-over-year increase in losses. Bad actors have set their sights on the high-dollar payouts of real estate transactions. They are taking advantage of its vulnerable entry points and the general lack of industry-wide awareness about the problem.

Fidelity National Financial (FNF) is one of the largest providers of title insurance and settlement services in the United States. As leaders, they oversee thousands of transactions daily, and in parallel, have seen the rising threat of wire fraud at every level.

We spoke with FNF leaders Michele Green, SVP of National Agency Operations, Elizabeth Reilly, Chief Privacy Officer, and Elizabeth Wysong Berg, VP for Education and Training, about the fraud prevention challenges title professionals face today, how we got here, and how to keep the industry safe moving forward. Here’s what they said.

Want to listen to this conversation? Watch a replay of the webinar above.

The need for constant learning

The panelists unanimously agreed that wire fraud education is crucial. With rapid advancements in real estate technology, fraudsters are finding new ways to take your money. Staying informed and ready to adapt is vital. 

As an advocate for wire fraud prevention for over a decade, Michele Green has seen wire fraud in nearly every form. She knows the threats of seller impersonation fraud and mortgage payoff fraud. To some, her call to arms against wire fraud might seem repetitive. But that’s exactly what opens you up to fraudsters, she warns.

“I wish it was it old, and I wish it was the white noise that some people think it is,” Green notes, “But it changes and evolves weekly. The people who say, ‘Okay, okay, I've heard about this enough. Can we stop talking about it?’ Sadly, the answer is ‘No,” she said.

For Elizabeth Reilly, the value of fraud prevention and awareness isn’t just something to manage — it’s an integral part of the industry's growth. She added that pushing for data privacy and fighting fraud go hand in hand.

“We continue to advocate for things that can counter fraud as well as for data privacy and legislation that can effectively help, rather than hinder, our role in the industry.”

Today’s title professionals take note: wire fraud isn’t going away, and can’t be ignored.

Take a collaborative approach to combating fraud

The increase in digitization across title has made information more accessible—including to the wrong people. That means protections must be applied at every stage of the transaction by all who manage it. Handling client money and data comes with big risks, and everyone from sales reps to management needs to be educated on the latest fraud prevention techniques. 

As the VP of Education and Training, Elizabeth Wysong Berg suggests that fraud prevention be considered a “team sport,” advocating for cross-regional collaboration and information sharing to enhance detection and prevention.

“It’s important to be like, ‘Okay, what are you guys seeing up in Wisconsin? Okay, does that look like what Florida is seen? Does that look like what Texas is seeing?’ And then gathering all that information so that we can do more digging and due diligence,” she says, “The more I can disseminate, the more I can break it down, and the more that we can work on this together.”

Michele echoed Elizabeth, noting that it’s everyone’s responsibility to be as informed on wire fraud as possible.

“Let’s get our sales representatives and local management as expert as they can possibly be and speak to our agents in their offices,” Green said.

But collaboration isn’t just valuable before a fraud occurs — it’s also important after an incident. With the rise in Business Email Compromise (BEC), Reilly pointed out the crucial role of legal and regulatory understanding in responding to incidents, emphasizing the importance of partnerships with banking institutions to limit damages.

“That's typically how these wired fraud starts start, right? It's with somebody. It's with that actor getting enough information to insert themselves within the transaction to redirect the wire. And so a lot of times, it's that question of ‘What are the legal obligations? What are the regulatory obligations?’ You have to keep the folks that have those relationships on the banking side to be able to freeze an account.”

Everyone has a role in fraud prevention, and finding connections between partners is a key part of the effort.

Every company needs an Incident Response Plan (IRP) 

Unfortunately, the increase in cybercrime means it’s no longer a matter of if, but when, you’ll be a target for wire fraud. Having a plan before fraud strikes is non-negotiable. Michele Green advises preparing a step-by-step process and ensuring everyone knows their role in a fraud incident. She says that treating each transaction with the utmost care, as if it were your own money, is essential.

“We can never be cavalier about moving that money,” Green says, “There was a time in our industry when wiring was far safer than it was now. How people obtain the wiring instructions was never really a top-of-mind issue for many people who've been in our industry for a long time. This is somebody else's money. If this situation goes badly, I'm going to be liable for it.”

But it’s not just your response to wire fraud, that’s important, states Elizabeth Wysong Berg. It’s also knowing how your transaction partners would act. Fraud can happen at any moment, and at any stage of the deal. 

“Are you having conversations with your realtor partners about what they are doing? What is their plan going to be? Are we talking with our industry partners about their own? What they're going to do on their worst day?” Wysong Berg asks.

Constant communication about fraud has a trickle down effect. When you're actively engaging with others and discussing wire fraud, your teams, clients, and partners will, too. It's a network effect that makes everyone safer.

Watch out for seller impersonation fraud

What's taking up most of their mind today? Seller impersonation fraud, they said. All three panelists noted an increase in the volume and complexity of these cases—and how you can never be too careful.

"The biggest evolution I see coming is in this seller impersonation space," Michele Green said, “I have seen a seller impersonation fraud that an agent fell victim to where there absolutely was a buyer's mortgage. I have seen the bad guys pay off a seller's mortgage. We're starting to see on a rapidly accelerating pace the fake sellers communicating with us in a way that we would think couldn't happen.”

For more on the signs of seller impersonation, read our blog post or watch our webinar.

Keep fraud prevention simple

In the end, it’s about trusting your gut. As an industry professional, you have an innate sense of what is — and isn’t — right during the transaction. If something feels off, it probably is. Elizabeth Wysong Berg stresses the importance of doing your due diligence.

“If you have that feeling, something's going wrong. you have to investigate. You have to stop. And we've have to talk with our partners in the industry.”

The importance of learning more and working together cannot be understated. By being alert and ready, real estate professionals can protect themselves from fraud and keep their clients' trust.

Claudia Lee

VP of Marketing

Claudia is a marketing leader who has led several global functions in enterprise IT. She has a strong track record of scaling growth through partnerships and solutions across a variety of industries.

Getting started with CertifID is easy.

Request a Demo