One side effect of the COVID crisis has been an increase in the use of online based video chat services like Zoom. Unfortunately, this also has created a new type of online cyber-criminal… the ZOOMPIRE!
This “vampire” isn’t after your blood but, instead, specializes in sending fake zoom meetings to users to steal their personal data with specialized links used to fool the person into believing they’ve been invited to an online meeting.
Researchers at INKY say that these new attacks are even fooling some Secure Email Gateways (SEGs), making them harder to catch.
In addition, they can send a direct link, preventing your browser’s fraud prevention, as well. “If the hacker includes a fake attachment, it leads to a fake login page that’s locally hosted on the recipient’s computer, not the internet,” the researchers write.
The solution here may be a low tech one. By texting or calling to confirm any meetings you didn’t set up yourself, you can be sure you’re only joining meetings you’re supposed to join – and prevent the ZOOMPIRE!
You’ve just bought a house. You and your spouse are enjoying your new home, your new neighborhood, and your new back yard. In fact, you’re out back sipping coffee one morning when you open a letter from your city and find that you now owe $34,000 in code violations. The previous owner let the lawn grow too tall and didn’t fix it for months.
This sounds like a horror story, and it is! But, it’s also a true story! This is one of the many dangers in not getting a municipal lien search – an additional search that must be requested.
That’s why Florida Agency Network offers a wide variety of additional comprehensive searches that go above and beyond the typical lien and title searches required by law.
Here are some of our additional searches and the value they hold:
This search allows us to find liens from the local city or town that may be placed for various reasons, such as unpaid taxes, water, or sewer charges. These can come back to the new owners, as the lien is on the property not the person who owned the property.
This is a national database that tracks mortgage servicers to ensure interests in loans for residential real estate. This ensures that the mortgages have been moved properly and your current servicer is the correct one.
When an owner has open or expired permits left on the home, they can cause trouble for the new owners – especially if they want to do some work that requires a permit. It’s important to get these items resolved before closing.
CODE & CODE ENFORCEMENT SEARCHES
Code violations are the responsibility of the homeowner, regardless of when the violation happened. This means tall grass, pest extermination, or other code violations can come back to cost the new owner.
These are just some of the ways that not doing a comprehensive search for your customers can come back and cost them. Your Florida Agency Network agency is ready to help! To share this information with others, we have a downloadable PDF.
Each year, the country is hit with hurricanes, tornadoes, hailstorms, super storms, flooding, and more. With hurricane season running from June 1st to November 30th, coastal and inland region homeowners must prepare for potential storms annually. Of course, you have insurance to help you recover. But knowing and doing a few things now—while the weather’s fair—can help you and your family stay safe and help you protect your property if the unexpected happens.
Here are 10 Ways to Prepare You and Your Clients for Hurricane Season:
10. Know Your Closing Options
Know your closing options in case of an evacuation. Our options include, but are not limited to, Remote Online Notarization (RON), Mobile Notary to come to your location, or a Traditional Closing (in-person at the office).
9. Trim Your Landscape
Trim trees and shrubbery to help protect your house in case of a storm. Keep in mind this is a tip if you are about to list your home or have purchased a new home.
8. Stock Up
Stock up on important items such as canned goods, water, pet food, paper goods, flashlights, batteries, and most importantly – adult beverages.
7. Think About Your Outdoor Items
Consider where to store outside items if a storm comes, such as a boat, a trailer, pool chairs/equipment, etc.
6. Take Photos
Take photos of the property, inside and out, prior to the storm.
5. Secure Important Documents
Be sure all important documents are stored in a waterproof safe, in the cloud, or in a secure portal online. These documents should include your Homeowners Insurance policy, survey, marriage license, wills, social security card, title policy, etc.
4. Consider Flood Insurance
Consider Flood Insurance, even if you are not in a flood zone. Be sure to purchase early – it can take 30+ days for the insurance company to finalize your policy.
3. Bind Your Homeowners Insurance Early
Homeowners Insurance – obtain quotes prior to signing your contract and consider binding the policy early, even before your closing day.
2. Don’t Host the Hurricane Party
Find out who’s hosting the local Hurricane Party… because you don’t want to be volunteered to host it at your new house!
1. STOCK UP ON TOILET PAPER!!!
In addition to these tips, be sure to stay up to date on local news and have a battery-operated radio on hand to stay informed during power outages.
Covid-19 has been a challenge for every American, and while we are dealing with an ever-evolving landscape of quarantine and modified stay-at-home orders still, the real estate industry continues to chug along. That means your potential customers are still thinking about buying their first home, upgrading to a bigger home, or selling their starter home, and they’re going to be looking for real estate agent to help them.
The good news? We know where your customers are probably spending most of their day – at home. And, if they’re anything like us (don’t worry, they are), they’re also spending a lot of that time on their phones and computers. 32% of Americans have admitted to spending longer online since the beginning of this crisis, and that number is only climbing.
That means it’s time for some online marketing! Getting in front of your customers may be easier than ever, so here are 5 tools to help you beef up your marketing game:
Create Cute Content on Canva. If you haven’t heard of Canva before, your competitors have! Canva.com is a platform that allows you to design pictures to post on social media. Pictures produce 650% more engagement when compared to text posts. It only makes sense to turn those words into pictures!
Seamlessly & Safely Stage to Sell. Open houses and walk-throughs may have trickled to all time lows, but buyers still aren’t too keen on buying a house they haven’t seen from the inside. The solution is virtual staging! Check out these virtual staging solutions and post the pictures to your social media platform of choice!
Perfectly Plan Your Posts. Homeschooling, trips to the grocery stores, binging TV shows – life can still be busy when stuck inside. That means you might not be able to post at the best times, and planning ahead could really come in handy. Check out Hootsuite or Post Planner to manage your social media, but remember to put the popcorn down when the customers start calling!
Elevate Your Emails. Email marketing is still one of the most profitable forms of advertising, with an average ROI of $38 to every $1 spent. (3) Mailchimp is the tried-and-true favorite, but there are alternatives that can be better for some people here. No matter what software you decide to use, check out BombBomb to add a personal touch. This software can add a small video to your email for added engagement.
Tech Up Your Toolkit. If you’ve talked to one of our account representatives, they have probably mentioned FanAgent One as a great tool for fast net sheet quotes, but did you know it’s also a great tool for marketing? Check out the filters for social media and the info sheets that allow you to add your picture and info to send to your customers.
We all hope that we get back to normal in no time, but in the meantime, the above tools can help keep you top of mind for your customers.
This May don’t forget to celebrate “May the 4th Be with You” – a fun holiday celebrating the biggest movie franchise in history, Star Wars! It’s a story of the Jedi vs. the Sith, Rebels vs. the Empire, and Good vs. Evil – which reminds us of our galactic fight vs. hackers!
Much like the Jedi, we’re locked in an endless battle against evil, and much like the Sith, that evil can clone itself, change, and adapt to our defenses. That means we must be ready for anything.
Here are a few ways we’re helping protect you against the evils of the galaxy!
“Artoo Detoo, you know better than to trust a strange computer.” – C3PO
Our secure portal is like flying your ship through hyperspace to deliver your secure documents. Unlike traditional document delivery, such as emails or fax, our secure portal uses multi-factor authentication to ensure all communication between us and your customers is secure and cannot be intercepted.
“And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base.” – Darth Vader
Mortgage payoffs are at a heightened risk from those determined to turn to the dark side. While other title companies are fighting against a barrage of fake payoffs sent via email or text, we’ve centralized our mortgage payoffs, like a hidden rebel base. If the payoff doesn’t come from our secure hidden base, we blast it into deep space.
“Never tell me the odds!” – Han Solo
All the security processes above would mean nothing if they failed when we needed them, so we rely on our SOC1 and SOC2 certification to help ensure we keep the odds of anything going wrong as close to zero to possible. Annually, these reports test and prod at our systems, like firing lasers at ourselves to test our shields. The SOC 1 report audits our ability to keep our customer’s financial information secure, and the SOC 2 tests our compliance for security, confidentiality, and privacy.
Those are just a few of the ways we’re fighting the never-ending galactic battle against outside forces coming after your customer’s money. If you’d like to find out how else we can help you, call us today to set up a meeting with one of our Jedi. They are truly experts – and not bad with a lightsaber either!
We’re all experiencing an unprecedented time in our history; most of the country and large parts of the world are under some type of stay-at-home orders. While our team members at Affinity Title Services are working hard to make sure your transaction closes on time, unfortunately, there is an army of unscrupulous people that are using this time to attack you financially.
As the world has turned to online services for financial transactions, 22% of Americans have been the target of fraud attempts in the past few weeks. They hope that you’re too preoccupied with the immediate need of social distancing to notice that the threats of fraud are still quite high.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to stay safe financially during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic:
DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CLICK – At least half of all COVID-19 related websites that have registered during this time are suspected of malicious activity. Be wary of ANY coronavirus specific website and pay attention to your clicks on social media or the internet. Before your click, check that the link is going to the expected website – preferably one you know already and trust.
BE AWARE OF FAKE NEWS – Scammers are creating fake news stories on contaminated websites in hopes that you’ll not only read them, but share them online – all to get you and your friends to visit their malicious websites. While some of these websites may look legitimate, they can hide spyware or be phishing for your data. Check all news stories to ensure they are from mainstream media sources.
VERIFY THE SENDER – The FBI warns of a significant threat of phishing emails relating to economic stimulus payments, charitable and relief contributions, fake cures, vaccines, and testing kits. If you’re not sure, click on the sender’s EMAIL ADDRESS (but not any links in the email) to see if the email matches the sender. If you’re not 100% sure who the sender is and that you were the intended recipient, do not open or forward the email.
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS – While you should always be cautious about your passwords, it’s good practice to change them during times of accelerated fraud activity. Some experts recommend using pass phrases instead of complicated passwords, which may be easier to remember. Also, it’s not OK to share passwords among websites and other places to prevent your passwords being stolen from one website and used on another.
DON’T TEXT BACK – Have you heard of SMISHING? It’s a new form of information phishing that hackers are using to send you text messages that include links or will appear to be from legitimate sources. Remember the same tips from your emails and don’t trust anything unless you’re SURE who the sender is. Delete anything you’re not sure about. Also, no one will ask for your password via text messages, so if you get a text asking for ANY passwords, it’s delete-worthy!
Those are just a few ways to help you stay safe while we all are trying to keep our distance from one another. Remember, while you should always use caution when banking, communicating or shopping online, now is the time to be EXTRA vigilant.
Congratulations to you, the time-traveling realtor, for helping to advance closings of the future. If you’re not as excited as we are, it’s likely that you don’t know you’re a part of the future of real estate – eClosings.
What Is an eClosing?
An eClosing is any closing where documents are delivered and executed electronically. If you’re a customer of any Florida Agency Network title agency, you have probably participated in an eClosing as we stay on the cutting edge of closing technology.
If you’re not already one of our lucky time travelers, here’s what an eClosing can look like for you and your customers:
Using our online portal, your customers are not at the mercy of office hours to have documents sent or received. There is no need to fax or come into the office.
Some documents will be sent directly to your customers to be signed electronically. Most modern mortgage documents are signed with services such as Docusign or Adobe Sign.
A digital PDF copy of the Closing Disclosure is sent electronically for review by you and your customers.
Then, most importantly, when it comes to the actual closing day, you and your customers have many choices on where – and HOW – to execute the final documents:
Come to any of our 25+ offices to sit with one of our licensed title agents who can answer any questions you might have. They may have you sign at least some of the documents electronically.
Next, have your customers meet you at their home, place of work, or your office. We can send one of our “Mobile Closers” to you to make the closing completely convenient and have someone guide your customers through the documents.
With RON, or remote online notarization, you may be able to have your customer close anywhere in the WORLD – while they are on vacation, a work trip, or just sitting on the beach. They just need to be a U.S. citizen and have a strong WiFi connection.
A few things in life are certain, and taxes are one of the least enjoyable ones. For real estate agents that are guiding their customers through one of the most important financial decisions of their life, it’s vital to understand that they are likely to have tax implications when buying or selling a home and to know how to get them started on the right path to properly file.
Jake Alexander, President of Action Accounting in Clearwater, states that “it’s very important for real estate agents to advise their clients to know their dates and know their numbers, so they can file properly the first time and not have to deal with a surprise letter from the IRS years down the road.”
Luckily, Affinity Title Services is equipped with a secure portal that allows YOUR buyers and sellers to pull their documents in the privacy of their own home.
Both buyers and sellers can login to the same portal they used when purchasing or selling their home and navigate to the documents section to find their tax documents.
Buyers should pull their ALTA statement from the “SETTLEMENT STATEMENT” section of the portal. They should also keep track of purchase documents and improvements they make to their home to reduce their tax liability within the 24-month exemption of capital gains in case of the sale of the property.
Sellers will need to pull the 1099 forms provided on the portal and report those on their taxes. The issue of tax liability when selling their home will rely on many factors, and they should seek the advice of a tax professional to answer any questions.
Be sure to mention the availability of these documents to your buyers and sellers throughout the year and consider setting up a calendar reminder to touch base with all of them at tax time. They’ll appreciate the reminder!
For months, your Title Agent has told you about how 2020 is the year of remote online notarization (RON), and we’re proud to be the first title company in Florida to offer completely paperless eClosings! While it’s certainly a cool new way to complete your closing, the real question is – how can WE help YOU help YOUR customers?
We’ve put together a few examples of real world customers that would benefit from our eClosing and RON solutions.
Closings with Multiple Signers
Florida has one of the highest rates of inherited properties, and many times, the children who are inheriting these homes live all over the country or even abroad. This can create confusion and lengthy procedures because, under a typical closing, the title agency must provide a mail-away package or arrange for each person to visit a separate closing room. Now, all parties involved can sign at the same time, regardless of physical location – saving everyone involved time and money!
Sellers Traveling or Stationed Internationally
Traveling or working out of the country is usually planned well in advance, but sometimes, members of the military, those with jobs that call them abroad, or even vacationers can get caught with a closing before they make it back to the States. While there are solutions available for out-of-country sellers, it usually requires finding a notary at a US Embassy/Consulate, and there have been cases where transactions fell through because this wasn’t possible. RON is an excellent solution to help facilitate this and can help make the process that much easier.
Have you ever traveled and needed to sign documents for a closing but can’t find a witness to assist the Notary? With the new RON technology, witnesses now potentially can be anywhere in the US using this technology!
Older Individuals Who Cannot Travel Easily
For some customers, the simple act of traveling to one of our 20+ offices can be too cumbersome to manage. Completely mobile closings are popular and offer these customers the ability to close in the privacy of their own homes without requiring them to invite strangers onto their property. RON is an excellent solution for them and allows them to complete a secure closing without ever leaving home.
As you can see, there are many ways you can add RON and eClosings to the toolbox of services that you offer your clients. If you’d love to learn more about RON, the eClosing process, and what we can offer you in this new digital age of closings, simply schedule an in-office training for your team. To set up one of these educational events, contact your Title Rep today!