West, a Williston Financial Group Company, announces a new cybersecurity service for real estate agents, lenders, title agents and other settlement service providers to protect them against email fraud and provide real-time updates regarding potential risks.
The industry’s only cybersecurity helpdesk service, WESTprotect.com
offers free sign-up for fraud alert warnings and access to an extensive library of in-depth articles and reports, the 411 blog, as well as “WESTprotect 411,” the company’s email-analysis subscription service that analyzes suspicious emails and reports back within one hour. WESTprotect subscribers will also have access to cybersecurity training and phishing simulators that are customized for each real estate, mortgage or title company, something that previously would be prohibitively expensive for offices with less than 50 employees.
Monthly pricing for WESTprotect 411 begins at less than $10 per user, with Lure or Protect U available as add-on services for less than $2 per month.
Even before the pandemic forced a majority of financial industry employees to work from home and connect using their vulnerable home Internet connections, criminal email fraud activity was increasing rapidly. In May 2020 the FBI announced that reports of fraudulent Internet activity on its IC3.gov website had quadrupled from 1,000 a day since stay-at-home orders went into effect. The FBI estimates that this number may be only 40% of all fraud attempts, which puts potential daily fraud activity as high as 10,000 incidents.
Based on discussions he’s had within the industry, Bruce Phillips, West’s senior vice president and chief information security officer, believes that attempts at wire fraud are actually up six-fold and, more importantly, “the perpetrators’ success rate has doubled.” Fraud losses were $1.9 billion in 2019
“There are reasons why we’re seeing this increase and why the risks are so much higher in our industry,” Phillips says. “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.”
The average wire fraud transaction amount is currently between $140,000 and $160,000 and in 2019 alone, $1.9 billion was lost to various forms of business email compromise.
Wire fraud and other malicious email activity such as ransomware is ultimately less a technology issue and more a social engineering exercise, Phillips explains. There are no network plug-ins, antivirus software, or firewalls to solve the problem. “The criminals’ targets are really people,” he says.