Four Title Companies Fighting Fraud in the Year Ahead

Four title company leaders focus on fraud education in this real estate technology panel led by CertifID.

Four Title Companies Fighting Fraud in the Year Ahead

Four title company leaders focus on fraud education in this real estate technology panel led by CertifID.

Four Title Companies Fighting Fraud in the Year Ahead
Written by:

Tyler Adams

Read time:

10 minutes


Real Estate


Jan 19, 2023

Last month, I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion with four of our customers during the annual CertifID employee summit in Austin. It was a great opportunity for all our team members to hear directly from customers. Our customers are the source of inspiration for all things, whether it’s our product roadmap, onboarding process, support experience, sales and marketing campaigns, or mission to create a world without wire fraud.

These four leaders and their companies stand out in their communities for proactively taking steps against wire fraud. I hope sharing some of the topics we discussed provides you with some inspiration. 

Let’s meet our panelists:

A graphic introducing the four panel speakers: Amanda Turner (Stewart Title Company), Leslie Work (Frontier Title), Kelly Cohen (Cohen Closing & Title), and Tricia Smith (T. Smith Law)

Top Priorities for 2023

Wire fraud is top of mind for all of our panelists not only because a single hit could be devastating to their businesses, but also because of constantly evolving threats. Their teams face a continual barrage of tactics, from the late switcharoo to more recent examples of real estate agents unknowingly passing along fraudulently signed documents. Another recent trend involves fraudulent sellers or buyers of vacant lots. These scenarios don’t require a survey and involve smaller dollar amounts that can slip under the radar of best practices and vigilance.

“Fraud is always top of mind for us,” said Leslie Work. “I get fired up when we talk about fraud because one hit can take a company down. And we’re seeing so many different types of scenarios constantly pop up.”  

“We’re worried about [fraud] on a different scale,” shared Tricia Smith. “We’re in the process of absorbing another retiring attorney’s business, which involves bringing in new employees and new clients. So we’re having to educate on wire fraud and CertifID. We’re also constantly trying to stay informed to stay ahead of what’s new by the fraudsters.”  

The threat of wire fraud is even more pronounced in a market slowdown. During a time of lower volume, each transaction matters more. And from the real estate agent’s perspective, they’ll become more choosy about which title company their transactions go to. That’s an opportunity for companies with the right security and services to grab market share. 

“The market has shifted dramatically,” explained Kelly Cohen. “The pool is smaller, so everyone is swimming in the same water trying to get as many deals as they can. It’s back to the basics: building your reputation on knowledge and competency and how you’re going to protect the consumer.”

According to Amanda Turner: “Market share is very much top of mind. Wire fraud plays into that because with a lower volume market, you have to be extra careful on each order. We’re constantly educating our offices to pay attention on each and every order and not to make any assumptions.” 

Adjusting to Market Conditions

With a tighter real estate market, many of our panelists are using this time as a “building” season. This is the time to focus on the fundamentals of marketing, improve business processes, and train staff to be ready for the busy “execution’”season expected later next year. 

Security is part of the building strategy for these companies—both to protect the bottom line against major financial risks and support business growth by differentiating on client standard of care and protection.  

A title company needs to stand out to numerous sources of future business, including home buyers and sellers, real estate agents, brokers, and lenders. Ensuring a great experience with all of those parties can help secure future referrals and increase community awareness about wire fraud.

Our panelists plan to focus on education in 2023 as part of their building strategy. That includes conducting wire fraud and other CE/CLE (Continuing Education/Continuing Legal Education) courses for realtors, enhancing consumer resources to explain the value of solutions like CertifID, and sharing best practices for new technologies with colleagues.  

“We hold a lot of classes—that’s a way we differentiate ourselves,” Work explained. “Education with real estate agents is critical, because they’re the first point of contact to consumers. So many of these cases of fraud are happening before they even get to us as the title company, but we’re still pulled in or—even worse—blamed when something goes wrong. It’s a headache all around.” 

Cohen also emphasized the importance of education. “There’s so much about wire fraud that doesn’t get discussed. If you’re a title company and you or your client falls victim, no one wants to talk about it. People feel embarrassed about it. But without those stories being told and without people understanding it, that just allows fraudsters to get away with it.”

Change Management

Most of our panelists pointed to change management as more of an external issue than an internal one. Once their companies decided to take action against wire fraud by bringing on a solution, the adoption came quickly. Some of the panelists involved team members during the vendor evaluation to ensure buy in. Most agreed that onboarding the software into their processes was not the main change management challenge. In hindsight, they underestimated the need for ongoing education about why a wire fraud protection solution was required during a closing or payoff process. 

“Implementing the solution was easy,” shared Smith. “But educating our real estate agents and the outside world of what it is and what to expect was harder.”

Work concurred. “Internally it was an easy sell. Externally, we’re still constantly having to educate agents and clients on what wire fraud is and how CertifID helps them.” 

One exception was the largest company in our panel—Stewart Title. With several hundred offices to evangelize, train, onboard, and support, the adoption process has taken time. Offices with first-hand attempted frauds or fraud recoveries became key advocates to onboard other offices. 

“Change management at a company of our size is a huge undertaking,” said Turner. “Our leadership helped us drive it top-down. And we were constantly training offices to drive from the bottom up. Sometimes it took hearing of an incident to drive the change. Folks take it personally when they find out it is happening in their own office.” 

Technology: Force Multiplier or Necessary Evil?

All of our panelists agreed that although the industry is often slow to adopt technology, technology is essential to stay competitive. The discussion also touched on how to navigate multiple tool transitions in a way that balances keeping the business up to date while minimizing disruption to the team and clients. Sometimes, it was the customer support and industry familiarity that differentiated their favorite vendors from the rest. 

“For us, when the technology works the way it’s supposed to, my ability to do better work is multiplied. But it’s definitely a constant battle to stay up to speed,” explained Smith.

Most panelists look to their underwriters to stay informed on new technology to support their business operations. In the case of mortgage payoffs, the solution couldn’t come soon enough. 

“When a buyer or seller falls victim to wire fraud, you find that out pretty quickly. But with payoffs you might not find out until, who knows, when they start foreclosing on the property,” shared Cohen. “And if you think about what’s been happening with lenders—they’re just now bringing staff back after the end of the moratorium on foreclosures during COVID. Those teams may be dealing with a backlog of payoffs that we don’t even know yet, which could be fraudulent.”

“As soon as PayoffProtect was available, we promoted it on social media so that our real estate agents knew about the extra steps we are taking to protect their clients,” explained Work.

Each of these panelists had raised payoff fraud as a key concern to the CertifID team over the past few years. It’s been exciting to see how quickly a solution like PayoffProtect can be adopted when it addresses a real need. 

Takeaways for All of Us

We’re so grateful to these four forward-thinking leaders for joining us for our panel (and a pickleball battle royale tournament)! From their experiences, we realize that the work of educating stakeholders in a real estate transaction about wire fraud is not yet done. By making this a priority in the new year, we can keep more money out of the hands of criminals in 2023 and beyond.

Did you know that mortgage payoffs were the largest source of CertifID fraud recovery cases over the past two years? Learn how you can secure your payoffs. We're here to help.

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Tyler Adams

Co-founder & CEO

Tyler brings a decade of leadership experience developing and launching technology businesses. Before co-founding CertifID, Tyler led new product development at BCG Digital Ventures for Mercedes-Benz, First American Financial, Boston Scientific, and Aflac.

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