On-demand webinar: Buyer’s Agent Commission Ruling: What it Means for Real Estate?

Request Demo

The Cost of Mortgage Payoff Fraud and How to Protect Your Business

HOA Documents, HOA Management, Investors, Lenders,
Published: Mar 14, 2024
Updated on: May 09, 2024
  by Editorial team

With the alarming rise in mortgage payoff fraud, the real estate industry is under increased threat. Fraudsters now skillfully trick real estate professionals into redirecting mortgage payoffs to their accounts.

The consequences are dire. Ranging from significant financial loss to the tarnishing of professional reputations. 

The remedy? 

The more you understand how those mortgage payoff frauds work, the better you’ll be at detecting them and protecting everyone involved in the property transaction.

But how? 

We’ve gathered a few tips to help real estate professionals safeguard their assets and keep their peace of mind.

Let’s begin. 

What Is Mortgage Payoff Fraud?

Mortgage payoff fraud is a deceptive scheme that targets individuals and businesses during the real estate transaction process. 

In this scam, fraudsters impersonate property sellers, real estate agents, or legal representatives, typically via compromised email accounts. They send altered payment instructions to buyers or financial institutions, directing the mortgage payoff funds to fraudulent accounts.

This deceptive practice not only leads to significant financial losses for the parties involved but also jeopardizes property ownership and trust in the real estate transaction process. 

The Rise of Mortgage Payoff Threats in Real Estate

mortgage payoff fraud- white block charts on light blue background

Unfortunately, in the past few years, mortgage payoff frauds have alarmingly increased, a staggering 532% rise from the first to the second quarter of 2023 alone. This surge is partly due to a cooling housing market, where the high average payoff amount of over $236,000 becomes a more lucrative target for scammers than other types of wire fraud.

The increased financial incentives have led fraudsters to devise more sophisticated schemes. Combined with the inherently high-pressure environment of the closing process, they put the industry in a vulnerable position.  

Technology also plays a role in the daring actions of cybercriminals. Along with the many benefits we stand to gain from adopting tech solutions, there are risks. Especially when it comes to training people how to navigate digital work safely. Without proper training on spotting suspicious behavior, employees become the weakest link to exploit in schemes known as social engineering

Understanding the Mechanics of Mortgage Payoff Fraud

mortgage payoff fraud- white steps leading into a shrinking perspective of entrances into white rooms

To spot a potential threat, you need to get familiar with the mechanics of mortgage payoff fraud. Here’s how it works: 

  1. Email Compromise: Scammers often gain access to the email accounts of the involved parties (e.g., real estate agents, attorneys, or sellers) through phishing attacks or other methods.
  2. Impersonation: Once they have access, they monitor communications and wait for the right moment, usually close to the closing date, to intercept and alter the communication.
  3. Fraudulent Instructions: They then send altered wire transfer instructions to the buyer, title company, or attorney, directing the mortgage payoff funds to a fraudulent account.
  4. Misdirection: The fraudulent instructions often look legitimate, mimicking the email format, language, and signatures of the real parties involved.

Understanding how fraudsters usually exploit vulnerabilities is the first step, the next is implementing the practices that ensure your company’s cyber threat protection.  

Best Practices for Enhancing Cybersecurity in Mortgage Transactions

mortgage payoff fraud-  three white model houses on top of papers with colorful charts

Adapt a multilayered approach. Look at the issue holistically and separate your cybersecurity measures into these three categories.

1. Verification and Validation Protocols

  • Try to obtain mortgage payoffs early and verify banking details by calling the payee directly. 
  • Create a database of verified accounts and payees for each bank or lender to streamline the verification process.
  • Avoid reliance on third-party information. Instead, independently verify payees using known and trusted phone numbers.
  • If new wire instructions cannot be verbally verified, arrange for payment via overnight check. 

2. Cybersecurity Measures

  • Implement strong password policies and advanced authentication measures like multi-factor authentication and login attempt monitoring.
  • Enforce role-based access control and the principle of least privilege to minimize unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Regularly conduct risk assessments, provide employee training, and establish clear policies for device usage and data management.

3. Proactive Defense Strategies

  • Stay vigilant for unexpected changes in payment instructions and verify all wire transfer instructions independently.
  • Use secure communication channels for sharing sensitive information and employ multi-factor authentication where possible.
  • Collect and analyze cyber threat intelligence to stay ahead of potential threats and ensure prompt disaster recovery.
  • Integrating these best practices allows you to fortify defenses against cybercriminals’ sophisticated tactics and ensure the security of your large-scale financial transactions. 

Remember, the human element is often the target of social engineering attacks, so continuous education and awareness are vital.

The True Cost of Internal Mortgage Payoff Handling

mortgage payoff fraud- a model house made of dollars on white background

Implementing enhanced cybersecurity measures regarding mortgage payoffs is a must. However, handling payoffs internally often complicates the implementation of proper safety measures. 

Some of the financial and operational hurdles real estate professionals have to overcome include: 

Financial Hurdles

  1. Staffing and Training Costs: Dedicated staff is required to handle mortgage payoffs, including processing payments, verifying details, and communicating with various parties. Training these employees on the latest legal requirements and fraud prevention techniques adds to the overhead.
  2. Technology and Security: Ensuring secure transactions necessitates investment in robust IT infrastructure and cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information from breaches and fraud.
  3. Error and Delay Costs: Mistakes in the payoff process can lead to penalties, additional interest charges, or legal fees. Delays, on the other hand, can strain client relationships and potentially derail property transactions.
  4. Compliance and Legal Fees: Staying compliant with evolving real estate laws, lending standards, and privacy regulations requires legal expertise, which may entail ongoing legal consultation fees.

Operational Hurdles

  1. Resource Allocation: Allocating internal resources to mortgage payoffs diverts attention and manpower from core business activities, potentially hindering growth and innovation.
  2. Risk Management: Handling mortgage payoffs internally increases the risk of errors and fraud, which can lead to financial loss and damage to reputation.
  3. Process Efficiency: Without specialized tools and processes, internal handling can be less efficient than outsourcing to experts, leading to longer turnaround times and higher operational costs.
  4. Customer Satisfaction: Inefficiencies, errors, or security breaches in the payoff process can negatively impact the customer experience, affecting client retention and referrals.

While internal mortgage payoff handling provides control and direct oversight, it comes with significant costs and risks. 

Real estate business owners must weigh these against the potential benefits and consider whether outsourcing or investing in specialized solutions might offer a more cost-effective, secure and efficient approach to managing mortgage payoffs.

Choosing the Right Mortgage Payoff Partner

hands of agent and client shaking hands after signed contract bu

If you decide to work with an external partner for your mortgage payoffs, you’ll need to evaluate and find the best fit for your company. 

When selecting a mortgage payoff partner, look for: 

Expertise and Experience

Look for a partner with a proven track record in handling mortgage payoffs. They should have extensive knowledge of the real estate industry and understand the complexities of the mortgage payoff process.

Experience in dealing with various scenarios and challenges is essential for navigating potential issues effectively.

Security Measures

Given the rise in mortgage payoff fraud, a partner’s security protocols are non-negotiable. Ensure they have robust cybersecurity measures in place, including encryption, secure email communications, and multi-factor authentication. 

Ask about their history of security breaches and how they responded.

Technology and Integration

Assess the technology used by the potential partner. They should offer a platform that integrates easily with your existing systems to ensure a seamless workflow. 

The technology should enhance the efficiency of the payoff process, provide real-time updates, and facilitate easy communication.

Customer Service and Support

Exceptional customer service is crucial. The right partner should provide clear, consistent communication and be readily available to address any questions or concerns. Look for a partner who assigns a dedicated account manager to your business.

Reputation and Reviews

5 red houses on a wooden table mortgage payoff

Research the partner’s reputation in the industry. Read reviews and testimonials from other clients to gauge their reliability and service quality. Don’t hesitate to ask for references or case studies.

Pricing and Fees

Understand the pricing structure and what services are included. Ensure there are no hidden fees and that the costs align with your budget and the value provided.

A good partner should offer transparent pricing and flexible payment options.

Adaptability and Scalability

Choose a partner who can adapt to your business’s changing needs and scale its services as your business grows. They should be forward-thinking and proactive in updating their services and technology to meet industry trends and challenges.

Cultural Fit

Ensure the partner’s business culture and values align with yours. A partnership is more than a transactional relationship; it’s a collaboration that should be built on mutual respect and shared goals.

Exit Strategy

Finally, understand the terms of ending the partnership. There should be clear procedures in place for transitioning away from the partner if needed, without disrupting your business operations.

By carefully evaluating potential mortgage payoff partners based on these criteria, you can select a partner that not only meets your current needs but also contributes to the long-term success and security of your real estate transactions.


little red house model on table next to a metal key on a key chain

Let’s summarize. 

There are a few steps you should take to protect your business from mortgage payoff fraud. First, stay informed about the latest cybersecurity best practices that help boost your defenses against mortgage fraud.

Second,  implement rigorous cybersecurity and verification processes that ensure your real estate transactions remain secure. 

Third, choose a reliable partner if handling mortgage payoffs internally and constantly staying on top of your cybersecurity isn’t something you’re ready to invest in. Rexera can help with the third option. Reach out to our team to learn how, and sign up for our blog to receive the latest tips and guides on handling mortgage payoffs, HOA doc acquisition, municipal lien searches, and HOA asset management.

tw fb link tg whatsappp

Rexera in the News

n1 n1 n1 n1 n1 n1 n1 n1 n1 n1
Proud members of
p1 p1 p1 p1 p1 p1 p1 p1 p1
What our clients say about us?
Katie Zorn, Ambassador, Hankin & Pack
linked website
I couldn't do my job without you
You all rock! Seriously. I do see all the hard work you guys do. This job isn't easy. I couldn't do my job without you guys so I mean it when I say YOU ROCK!
Katie Zorn, Ambassador, Hankin & Pack
Lori, Escrow Support Supervisor
A huge win for us
"Your team discovered the lien and let us know so we were able to get the payoff statement. We were also able to revisit the research and find the recorded lien.

This is a huge win for us – so THANK YOU for all you do!"
Lori, Escrow Support Supervisor
Brad Honn, Senior Director of Escrow and Title Operations, Homeward
linked website
Worry-free closings
“As we all know, HOA issues can really blow up and cause a lot of problems for closing. So it helps us all sleep better knowing that there is not going to be a problem, or anything we forgot on the order, or an update that we forgot to complete before closing the transaction. Because we have a great partner Rexera (formerly InspectHOA), making sure that those things don’t happen to us.”
Brad Honn, Senior Director of Escrow and Title Operations, Homeward
Kacie McAteer, Vice President, Ideal Title Agency
linked website
They always go the extra mile
"Rexera (formerly InspectHOA) is simply above the rest when it comes to our HOA needs. Their portal is perfect, their communication is constant, and they always go the extra mile in order to meet our deadlines and impress our customers. I would highly recommend them to everyone in the title insurance industry. Thank you Rexera for all that you do!"
Kacie McAteer, Vice President, Ideal Title Agency
Diana Casella, Ideal Title
A vendor that cares
"We’ve only been working with you all for a little while, but so far my team is singing nothing but praise and relief at finally having a Vendor that cares about these files as much as we do. "
Diana Casella, Ideal Title
Michelle Rose, Partner, Closing Day Settlements
linked website
Number #1 for efficiency
"I highly Recommend Marina Hubenova and sending all orders to Rexera (formerly InspectHOA). I love sending all my orders through their client portal or in Qualia. They are number #1 with efficiency and detailed reports. I never think twice on placing my orders with them. "
Michelle Rose, Partner, Closing Day Settlements
Shawna Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer, Endpoint
linked website
A partner for innovation
"We are constantly tweaking and refining our processes, so we needed a reliable partner that would go along this journey with us. And Rexera (formerly InspectHOA) is exactly that."
Shawna Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer, Endpoint
Cristina Sadler, Escrow Officer, TransCounty
linked website
A way to take back control
“I was worried the job wouldn’t get done, but it always gets done! It’s worth it; it’s beyond worth it!"
Cristina Sadler, Escrow Officer, TransCounty
Scott Young, EasyKnock
linked website
A solution to a historical problem
"Rexera (formerly InspectHOA) has been an instrumental partner in mitigating risk and creating efficiencies in our acquisition process. They are the solution to a historical problem that title companies and other vendors face in every transaction."
Scott Young, EasyKnock
Melissa Daniels, CEO, Emerald National Title
linked website
Going above and beyond
“Why does a closing have to feel like a transaction? At Emerald National Title, our vision is to create a customized experience with a dedicated closing officer. So when a closing goes sideways, and you have a partner like Rexera that sends someone to the HOA office in person to help resolve the issue, that is a partner that understands that buying a home is personal, not a transaction. That is an example of Rexera going above and beyond that directly supports the vision for my business.”
Melissa Daniels, CEO, Emerald National Title
You will hear from us soon

    You will hear from us soon