WEST, a Williston Financial Group company, announced this week that its cybersecurity service WESTprotect.com, created to aid title and real estate agents as well as lenders from potential online risks and email fraud, is now available on an on-demand and self-serve basis.
The site offers free sign-up for fraud alert warnings, risk reports, and the company’s cybersecurity help desk, WESTprotect 411 – an email-analysis subscription service that analyzes suspicious emails and reports back within one hour. WEST’s senior vice president and chief information security officer Bruce Phillips said that in the case of malicious emails, the company guides users through a case-by-case process depending on whether they clicked on the malicious links.
Subscribers now also have access to cybersecurity training and phishing simulators that are customized for each real estate, mortgage or title company.
The in-house cybersecurity system was created in collaboration with WFG chairman and founder Patrick Stone and Phillips to shield WFG National Title Insurance Company agencies, who WEST said were increasingly coming under attacks, from mail fraud and other malicious internet activity.
In 2019, the Consumer Sentinel Network, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, revealed consumers reported losing $1.9 billion related to fraud complaints. More recently, an analysis by FundingShield reported fraud and risk exposures in CPL errors and issues rose 50% in the second quarter of 2020.
“There are reasons why we’re seeing this increase and why the risks are so much higher in our industry,” Phillips said. “Wire fraud is the biggest threat to mortgage and real estate companies because they can lose the most money in the shortest amount of time.”
According to Phillips, there are three ingredients criminals need to get individuals to participate in successful wire fraud: a sudden change, a sense of urgency and a potential positive or negative consequence.
“The only ingredient needed is the third one: consequence. A negative consequence might come in an email appearing to be from a buyer’s escrow company and warning of problems with the escrow account. ‘We need to change escrow accounts if we want to close on schedule, so send the money to this new account.’
“Under the gun,” Phillips said. “a buyer may quickly do that, trusting the hijacked email address is valid, and forever lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.”