The Story of CertifID

After losing $180K to wire fraud, two title agency owners took matters into their own hands and created a solution that would become known as CertifID.

The Story of CertifID

After losing $180K to wire fraud, two title agency owners took matters into their own hands and created a solution that would become known as CertifID.

Written by:

Tom Cronkright

Read time:

1 min

Category:

Wire Fraud

In early April 2015, an employee at my title company, Sun Title, wired $180,000 to a fraudulent account - an event that would change my life forever. Everything about the real estate transaction and request to wire funds seemed legitimate.  Little did I know what was about to follow.

The Transaction

We received an order for title insurance on a commercial property in Grand Rapids, MI. It was a gas station, and we were working closely with the owner of the property. He sent us the purchase agreement and requested our services to insure the transfer and handle the escrow and settlement of funds.

Pursuant to the specific terms of the purchase agreement, we received a cashier's check from the buyer for $185,000. After due diligence was complete, we were directed to transfer $180,000 of that amount to the seller as non-refundable earnest money. Again, this is not completely uncommon, but looking back, it should have been a flag.

We deposited the $185,000 check into our escrow account, and it sat there for a few business days. Then we received the wiring instructions and confirmed with our bank that there were no issues with the check. Everything looked good; off the wire goes. After the check had been in the banking system for 4 days - we were informed that the check bounced.

The Realization of Wire Fraud

This was also when we realized the $180,000 did not go to our seller, and the email with the wiring instructions was really from the same bad guy buyer who sent the bogus cashier's check. The next few days were a blur of phone calls, court orders, and confusion. Something like this wasn’t even on our radar - it was a complete blind spot.

Fast-Forward to 2017

We had many more attempts that came through in the form of spoofed emails, compromised accounts, and targeted attacks. We even had a couple of near-misses. We needed a software solution that could help us do two things: 1.) easily verify the identity of someone we were transacting with, and 2.) share wiring information securely to ensure it hadn't been compromised and could be trusted.

After an exhaustive search for this solution to no avail, we started to build it ourselves in early 2017, and CertifID was born.

Dismantling a Crime Syndicate

In the process of building CertifID, I also played a part in helping to dismantle the North American chapter of a crime syndicate out of West Africa. You can read the rest of the story and find out how I was able to help dismantle the Nigerian crime syndicate known as the "Black Axe."

Tom Cronkright

Co-founder & CEO

Tom is an accomplished entrepreneur and licensed attorney. He has founded and led award-winning businesses to receive honorable recognition in their respective fields. Tom is also a highly sought-after speaker who lends his expertise to the world of real estate, fraud, and security-related topics across the country.