Avoid Being a Victim of Wire Fraud Schemes When Buying a Home

Buying a home is an exciting time. You’ve saved, found the perfect home and planned the move. Now, the closing day for your home is just around the corner.

The American Land Title Association wants to make sure your home purchase doesn’t get derailed by a dangerous threat that could keep you from getting the keys, painting walls and decorating. Criminals have stolen money meant for the purchase of homes through malicious wire fraud schemes targeting consumers across the country.

Criminals begin the wire fraud process way before the attempted theft occurs. Most often, they begin with a common social engineering technique called phishing. This can take the form of email messages, website forms or phone calls to fraudulently obtain private information. Through seemingly harmless communication, criminals trick users into inputting their information or clicking a link that allows hackers to steal login and password information.

Once hackers gain access to an email account, they will monitor messages to find someone in the process of buying a home. Hacks can come from various parties involved in a transaction, including real estate agents, title companies, attorneys or consumers. Criminals then use the stolen information to email fraudulent wire transfer instructions disguised to appear as if they came from a professional you’re working with to purchase a home. If you receive an email with wiring instructions, don’t respond. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. If you take the bait, your money could be gone in minutes.

“Attorneys and title companies have taken many steps to combat this problem, such as putting consumer warnings on websites and communications, securing email communications and sending notices to consumers and real estate agents informing them of the scams,” said Michelle Korsmo, chief executive officer of the American Land Title Association. “But the criminals are smart and constantly alter their tactics to steal information and money.

“Everyone involved in real estate transactions must also be aware of the potential losses as criminals phish for information and stalk home closings, hoping someone makes a mistake. If someone does mess up, it could cost your savings or retirement.”

Here are five tips to protect against wire fraud:

1. Call, don’t email: Confirm all wiring instructions by phone before transferring funds. Use the phone number from the title company’s website or a business card.

2. Be suspicious: It’s not common for title companies to change wiring instructions and payment info.

3. Confirm it all: Ask your bank to confirm not just the account number but also the name on the account before sending a wire.

4. Verify immediately: You should call the title company or real estate agent to validate that the funds were received. Detecting that you sent the money to the wrong account within 24 hours gives you the best chance of recovering your money.

5. Forward, don’t reply: When responding to an email, hit forward instead of reply and then start typing in the person’s email address. Criminals use email address that are very similar to the real one for a company. By typing in email addresses you will make it easier to discover if a fraudster is after you.

This article is courtesy of ALTA. The American Land Title Association helps educate homebuyers about title insurance so they can protect your property rights. Check out www.homeclosing101.org to learn more about title insurance and the home closing process. Attorney Khila Khani is proud to serve as a HOP (Homebuyer Outreach Program) Leader with ALTA. If you have any questions about this topic or need assistance, please contact us.

Cyber Security Tips

Being Cyber Safe and Secure

From time to time, we provide information that isn’t necessarily related to legal matters, but that could be useful to our readers. Summer is over and as everyone gets back into the groove, the likelihood of working on the road will increase. As a business traveler, we recommend you take precautions when “on the go” and using technology. Most times, people are more interested in getting their work accomplished and forget about security. Below are recommendations we have collected to remind you about how to maintain good security when on the road.

1. Be sure to have lock functions activated on your portable devices and lock devices in the hotel safe or suitcase. Hackers are quick to insert a thumb drive into your computer and install malware.

2. Encryption for critical email messages with sensitive information. It only takes one good hacker to intercept an email on an open or public network that isn’t encrypted.

3. If you use your laptop in a public place, consider using a privacy filter. Information can easily be retrieved by someone looking over your shoulder or behind you on an airplane.

4. Be AWARE when using public Wi-Fi networks available from airports, hotels or coffee shops. Identity thieves can easily access your device through this type of network and install malware. If you have the ability, we recommend you use alternatives to using public hotspots, such as using your mobile phone as a secure personal hotspot, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a dedicated mobile Wi-Fi system from your cellular carrier.

5. Delete flashlight apps, as research discovered that the top 10 Android flashlight apps are all monitoring user data including location, contacts, banking information and photos. And, as annoying as it might be, read the privacy policy and terms and conditions before downloading any flashlight apps. If they are asking for permissions that a flashlight shouldn’t really need, then don’t download.

6. Bring your own charging devices, as public charging stations can be infected with malware that can acquire data without your knowledge, delete your data or even hold your data ransom.

7. Turn off auto-location settings from non-critical apps. Prevent “Bluetooth Hacking” by ALWAYS turning off Bluetooth so that your device is not discoverable. Hackers are good at hacking phones using malware built to specifically target mobile phones.

8. ALWAYS log out of your web-based email accounts (Outlook Online, Gmail, etc.) when using hotel computers to check your email or print your boarding pass; and remember to empty the recycle bin when you delete any files containing sensitive information on a shared computer.

Contracts to Buy Residential Real Estate Climbs to 9-Year High

Victoria Park canalAccording to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales continued to make impressive gains last month, rising to the highest level since April 2006. In May, more Americans signed contracts to purchase homes, as these pending sales reached their highest levels in over nine years.

Large gains in pending home sales in the Northeast and West helped to offset small decreases in the Midwest and South.
Here’s a more detailed look at how the Pending Home Sales Index performed regionally in May:

• Northeast: rose 6.3 percent to 93.9 last month and is 10.6 percent above a year ago.
• Midwest: fell 0.6 percent to 111.4 but remains 7.8 percent above year ago levels.
• South: dropped 0.8 percent to 127.8 but are still 10.6 percent above last May.
• West: rose 2.2 percent to 104.5 in May and are 13 percent above a year ago.

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index rose 0.9 percent in May to 112.6 in May. The index is at its highest level since April 2006 when it was 113.7. The index has increased 10.4 percent over the past 12 months, putting it just below the April 2006 level—which was more than a year before the housing bust triggered the Great Recession.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist states, “The steady pace of solid job creation seen now for over a year has given the housing market a boost this spring. It’s very encouraging to now see a broad based recovery with all four major regions showing solid gains from a year ago and new home sales also coming alive.” Although there are strong sales, Yun cautions that these are causing home prices to rise to an “unhealthy and unsustainable pace.”

Pending sales are an indicator of future purchases. Additionally, a one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

Steady job growth, in conjunction with low but rising mortgage rates, has created greater urgency to buy homes. The gains reflect both a stronger economy but also the pressures to purchase a home before both prices and the cost of borrowing become potentially unaffordable. Despite Yun’s opinion, some other economists say that the job gains should be adequate to overcome the drag from higher rates.

Relatively low mortgage rates have assisted the real estate market, but the recent rate increases in recent weeks may possibly be causing more potential buyers to close transactions before higher rates inhibit their ability to purchase a home.
Average rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage were 4.02 percent last week, up slightly from 4 percent in the prior week, according mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The average has risen from a 52-week low of 3.59 percent.

Chief economist at Pantehon Macroeconomics, Ian Shepherdson states, “We think the housing market can cope with slightly higher mortgage rates, taking home sales to new post-crash highs over the next few months.”

Median home prices climbed 7.9 percent over the past 12 months to $228,700, about $1,700 short of the July 2006 peak.

Call the attorneys at Khani & Auerbach (954) 921-1517 if you have any questions about this or any real estate matters.

Uber It! Broward County Motor Carrier Ordinance Passes 4/28/15

dad-aventadorAt the April 28th Broward County Public Hearing, the Board of County Commissioners voted to update and expand the County’s Motor Carrier Ordinance. As some of you may know, this item sparked a lot of attention, and now, the ordinance provides a framework allowing Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Carriers to operate legally within Broward County.

The County voted on a variety of matters, but the three that pertain directly to this issue include requirements for Transportation Network Carriers to conduct background checks, vehicle inspections and obtain insurance.

1. Background Checks:

All Uber and Taxi Drivers will:

• Provide their fingerprints to Broward County.
• Register with the County as a Chauffeur.
• The County will receive a “ping,” which is a computer alert, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement if anyone working as a Chauffeur in Broward is arrested in the state of Florida.

2. Vehicle Inspections:

• All for hire vehicles must complete a 19 point vehicle inspection by an ASE Certified Mechanic once per year.

3. Insurance:

• State of Florida sets a minimum requirement for all vehicles for hire to be 24/7 coverage by a Standard Line Insurance Carrier, with Commercial Vehicle Insurance.
• Broward County requires all for hire vehicles to meet state requirements for insurance.

Editor’s notes: Companies, like Uber, have been threatening to pull out of Broward if this measure passed. Part of their argument was that the cost of doing business would increase so much that they couldn’t afford to stay in Broward. Balance those interests against the interest of protecting the users from all sorts of harm that is presently protected under the traditional Taxi business model and you might be able to see how beneficial the ordinance actually is. Protection from possible bodily harm caused by a driver, a car accident or getting stranded from a driver who doesn’t properly care for their vehicle would not exist without this ordinance being put into place. Worst case scenario, because that’s what lawyers always envision, another car rams into the vehicle you hired while you are “Ubering It.” You are taken to the hospital for serious injuries and you later find out that the driver of the other vehicle is uninsured AND the Uber driver is also uninsured. Exactly who pays for your visit to the hospital and the rehabilitation? Y-O-U. Yes, Uber is cheap, but always remember, you get what you pay for.

CFPB releases ‘Know Before You Owe’ Shopping Tool Kit

real estate, real estate closings, real estate transactionsThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus a/k/a the “CFPB” intends to roll out new guidelines and requirements for consumer home loans that will be in effect beginning August 1st of this year. They have kicked off their “Know Before You Owe” campaign by releasing a new toolkit to guide consumers through the process of shopping for a mortgage and buying a home.

“The new mortgage disclosure forms coming in August will help consumers comparison shop for mortgages and avoid surprises at the closing table. We are releasing this toolkit well in advance of the effective date to help the mortgage industry come into compliance with the new rules,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

The toolkit, which can be found here, provides a step-by-step guide to help consumers understand the nature and costs of real estate settlement services, define what “affordable” really means and search for their best mortgage.

The Shopping Tool Kit also features interactive worksheets and checklists, conversation starters for discussions between consumers and lenders, and research tips to help consumers seek out and find important information.

Before the CFPB rule, the law required lenders to deliver two different disclosures to borrowers within three business days of receiving their applications. However, new guidance from the CFPB will now severely restrict how much a final mortgage deal can vary from from the original loan estimate.

In an effort to ensure compliance, the ‘Know Before You Owe’ loan documentation will consist of two new forms: the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure to ensure compliance.

“Taking out a mortgage is one of the biggest financial decisions a consumer will ever make. Our new ‘Know Before You Owe’ mortgage forms improve consumer understanding, aid comparison shopping, and help prevent closing table surprises for consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The CFPB states further that the new documentation is intended to help improve consumer understanding, compare loan offers and avoid closing costs at the table.

At Khani & Auerbach, we are doing our very best to remain at the forefront of these changes.  We will continue to educate ourselves, our clients and real estate professionals that we work with in an effort to make these transitions as seamless as possible.   Click here for the downloadable .pdf file.

What’s Next? The Future of Social Media Marketing

By: Khila L. Khani, Esq.

At Khani & Auerbach, we are continuing to expand our minds with education and learning. This expansion is not just with the law, but in business, too! We are always pleased to share our knowledge with you, our friends, colleagues and clients. That being said, welcome to our first official LinkedIn publication.

As business owners, we are always seeking the most efficient way to market ourselves. These marketing techniques continue to change and rapidly evolve over time. The internet has greatly changed the landscape of marketing and at Khani & Auerbach, we are always ready to embrace these changes. Here are some predictions and explanations that may just blow your mind.

1. LinkedIn Will Continue to Be Important for Business-to-Business Networking and Growth.

Those of you who are seeing this on LinkedIn may notice that this platform is becoming increasingly important and for business. Some may continue to dismiss LinkedIn as viable form of marketing, but don’t be fooled! LinkedIn is still the leader of Business-to-Business marketing and out performs Facebook and Twitter. Bottom line: Keep investing your marketing dollars in LinkedIn.

2. Depending on Your Business, Image-Centric Networks Are Rapidly Becoming a Viable Form of Marketing

Some of you may ask, “What the heck is an ‘image-centric network'”? Image-Centric Networks are social network sites like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Pinterest seems to find greater activity among women, but Instagram and Snapchat have no gender boundaries. These image-centric networks, while they do not outperform Facebook, are definitely proving to be strong competition for the world’s greatest social networking scheme.

3. Don’t Ignore Google+!

The vast majority of entrepreneurs and business owners that don’t embrace this platform will end up finding themselves at a loss. Right now, Google+ is just beginning to be a tool for every business owner. Everyone has become so used to Facebook and Twitter as a form of marketing that they may find embracing Google+ to be too complicated. If you don’t know how to use Google+, learn how and start incorporating it into your marketing plan, now. Google is the best way to establish search engine ranking and as always, content is king! I was recently invited to formulate my custom URL for my Google+ profile. Within moments of receiving the invitation, I created my custom URL on Google+. See: www.google.com/+KhilaKhani Be on the lookout for +KhaniandAuerbach in the coming days!

4. Invest Your Marketing Dollars in Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)

If you are in a small business, appoint someone in your office to be in charge of social media campaigns. Even the shortest bit of information will continue to keep your business fresh in the minds of your followers and/or potential clients. Investments in social media is no longer a luxury that only the wealthy can afford, but that everyone needs to embrace. Businesses have chosen to put the marketing budget dollars into social media and away from traditional forms of marketing.

5. Micro-Videos and YouTube Are the Future

Vine, Instagram and YouTube continue to be an important marketing tool. Vine is more popular with the 12-25 age group, Instagram seems to stretch beyond the 25 and older group, but as everyone knows, YouTube has no age limits. If you don’t embrace the opportunities provided in these videos, you will miss the marketing boat.

In closing, the future of social media marketing is in your hands. If you continue to embrace the marketing tools of the past and fail to take advantage of these opportunities, you may find yourself in a business without business.

Buying A Home: Follow These Steps

By: Khila L. Khani, Esq.

So, you have found the home for you and you’re ready to make an offer. What next?


When you buy a used car, you might research the previous owner and everything about the car using services like “Car Fax”. While there are no “Car Fax” companies for previous home ownership, there are things you can do to research a residential property. Knowing more about a property before you actually present an offer to the Seller will help you get a better deal and avoid wasting everyone’s time. Be sure to understand the overall housing market, local supply and demand of homes in the specific area you are looking to purchase, the physical condition of the house, how long the home has been on the market and what the real motivation for selling might be for the seller .

Just like anything else, the more knowledgeable you are the easier the process will be. While you might have a price in mind to offer, consider obtaining pre-approval from your lender. Going through this process may also give you a better idea of what you can afford and also put the Seller at ease that you have done your homework.


We would never recommend that you put an offer in writing, but rather, have verbal discussions during this process. Unless you are experienced in the purchase and sale of real estate, we highly recommend that you have the assistance of a real estate professional during this process, whether it be a Realtor or an Attorney. There are a variety of things to consider before presenting a contract. An experienced professional will know what to look for when presenting the offer. Before presenting the offer, it might also be a good idea to get an understanding of your credit. We actually recommend getting a copy of your credit report before making the offer, to be sure that you can obtain the loan you seek on the property. If you click here, you can find information about obtaining your credit history at no charge.


After the initial presentation of the offer, you will likely receive a counter-offer from the seller that may include modifications or deletions of unsatisfactory terms. Most times, the price will be the sticking point, but as a buyer, you should always be prepared to negotiate. If you are not comfortable doing these things, a real estate professional (agent or lawyer) can assist you with this process.

Always remember, you have a budget and getting into a contract you know you can’t afford is something that transactions can suffer greatly from. The best thing to know is what you are capable of spending and if the deal doesn’t work for you (financially or otherwise), be able to walk away.

Finally, keep in mind that the loan approval process does not happen overnight and that a minimum of 30 days is needed to obtain the loan approval. Knowing that a lender may take that long to provide an approval, don’t set your closing date for 30 days after signing the contract, but maybe something longer. This article gives you a greater understanding of the Mortgage Loan Approval Process. Be prepared for anything! If all points have been agreed upon, all parties sign a contract, the next step is inspection.


Every professionally drafted contract for the purchase of residential real estate provides for an inspection of the property prior to closing. The time for the inspection usually kicks into gear immediately after the signing of the contract and lasts for a short period of time. Time is definitely of the essence and before you complete the buying process, it’s imperative that you have the property inspected by a inspection professional. Proper inspections usually focus on structural integrity, plumbing, roof condition, electrical maintenance, the presence of any pests and more. If there are items in addition to those listed, you must bring it to the inspector’s attention. We always recommend that the Buyer, or the Buyer’s agent, supervise the inspection. This completed inspection may reveal nothing or reveal everything. After an inspection, you will get a report outlining the details of the inspection. You may be able to use this information to renegotiate the price, other terms, leave everything the way it is or just walk away from the transaction entirely.


After all the paperwork has been submitted for the transaction, your mortgage application is next. Remember, it may take up to 30 days to receive final approval from the lender. And, even after submitting the first round of documentation, you may be required to submit additional financial documentation, disclosure of additional assets and debts, provide an explanation of any credit issues, provide home and flood insurance or even obtain an additional appraisal verifying that the home’s value exceeds the mortgage amount. Sometimes, the approvals don’t come until the day of the closing, but once approved, you are free to close on your new home!

Khani & Auerbach is here to assist you in your real estate transactions, but if you follow the steps above, you are more likely to have an uneventful transaction and be the homeowner you had hoped to be!