Data breaches and identity theft are becoming a common occurrence for businesses and consumers in retail transactions and, more recently, real estate transactions. Even mortgage lenders and settlement providers have made headlines where consumer data has been at risk.
While websites and databases pose a risk to the security of consumers’ private data, interception of simple email messages can lead to sensitive company or consumer information being compromised and possibly be used to perpetrate fraudulent activities against the customers we serve.
How does this affect you? First and foremost, the majority of mortgage lending in the U.S. is carried out by banks supervised by Federal agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), the FDIC and FTC. Each of these entities, along with state regulators, seek to ensure the safety and security of consumer information through supervision and enforcement of a variety of laws. With banks under so many regulations, all bank-related mortgage communication taking place through email will soon require the use of secure email.
While secure email is fast becoming common among mortgage, title and settlement services, some agents still have questions about encrypted e-mail systems. Generally speaking, these systems are easy to use and only require a simple registration the first time a recipient logs in while providing a greater level of protection for all involved.
One of the leading secure email providers is ZixCorp (www.zixcorp.com) which is a favorite among the national mortgage lenders. ZixCorp has even been selected as the secure email provider for all U.S. federal financial regulators, including the CFPB (the mortgage industry’s primary federal regulator). When interviewed for this article, ZixCorp Vice President, Geoff Bibby, stated that interest in secure email from the real estate community is increasing. Further, Bibby said, “Regulators, businesses and consumers are certainly more aware of the vulnerability of e-mail. Not only can email be intercepted while traveling across the Internet, but you would never know if an unauthorized person captured that information before allowing it to continue to the intended recipient. That’s a scary thought when you consider the amount of sensitive information transmitted in real estate transactions via email, and it’s difficult to justify leaving email exposed, especially when today’s solutions are easy and cost-effective.”
Dr. Ted C. Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title Company, underscored the economic impact that a broker or agent might find if they choose not to protect consumer information through secure e-mail. Dr. Jones said, “Imagine your closing information not on an encrypted system – anyone in the world now knows your personal information. REALTORS® and brokers need to work with title and settlement partners who help them protect consumer information by complying with federal and state laws. Those who choose otherwise may find themselves facing penalties from regulators and possibly civil penalties, as well.”