Fraudsters are creating entities with names very similar to real title agencies or law firms, and are holding themselves out to be agencies or attorneys appointed with various underwriters. The Fraudsters create CPLs, commitments, policies and other documents through creative word processing, cut and paste, and other methods that appear, on first glance, to be documents from the underwriter. They use these documents to induce their victims into funding transactions the fraudsters have engineered.
In order to avoid your clients or yourselves from becoming victims of the fraudsters, you need to be extra vigilant in dealing with any title agency or law firm, especially if dealing with them for the first time. Here are some steps you should follow:
1. Be alert to discrepancies or inconsistencies in any document you are provided.
Commitments and Policies- Is the Commitment a current version (2006), or has an outdated version been provided to you or your client? Does the underwriter and version of the jacket match the underwriter and version reflected on the schedules? Does the commitment look like the commitments you have received for the same underwriter on other previous occasions?
CPLs – Are the fonts and type sizes consistent throughout the document? Is the address for the underwriter consistent with your knowledge of the current address of the underwriter?
2. Check with the underwriter before relying on any CPL, Commitment or Policy issued by an agent or agency you are unfamiliar with. Call the underwriter’s agent verification department or go to the underwriter’s website to verify the agency status of the agent and the validity of the documents you have been provided. Do not fund (or allow your clients to fund) a transaction before checking with the underwriter. (Even if an agency is actively appointed by an underwriter at the time they issued the commitment and CPL, they could be inactive by the time you fund. Check with the underwriter again, right before funding.) Be sure to verify the address and phone number of the agent in the underwriter’s records matches the address and phone number of the entity you are dealing with.
3. Check the website for the Florida Department of Financial Services (www.myfloridacfo.com) to verify the status and underwriters of a licensed title agency, and the Florida Bar’s website (www.floridabar.org) to verify that an attorney is licensed to practice law in Florida.
4. Because these fraudsters are creating entities with names similar to real title agencies or attorneys, you should also be alert to the use of a name similar to yours. If you are contacted by someone looking for information on a transaction you are unfamiliar with, ask questions about how they got your name and number, who they have been dealing with, and the details of their transaction. If you believe that fraudsters are using a name similar to yours, contact your underwriter and the law enforcement authorities.
More information about this type of fraud and a bulletin issued by the Florida Land Title Association is available at FLTA’s website (flta.org).
Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC 6545 Corporate Centre Blvd., Orlando, FL 32822