Weekly Update: October 19, 2017

   HBAI hosted a breakfast meeting this month with fellow association executives to discuss identity theft, wire fraud, and general hacker attacks.  Mark Densmore of Densmore Insurance Strategies presented a long list of very scary scenarios that could affect your business.  Check out the next two articles below – it’s not a matter of if – hackers are working on it right now.

Take the Steps to Protect Your Business

At the breakfast meeting, Mark Densmore discussed quite a few steps that you can take to protect your business.  Many of them are not that time consuming, nor do they cost much.  Here they are:

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology lists these guidelines:

  1. Identify:  What do I have to protect?  Emails, Ransomware, PII, PCI, PHI Info, Inventory computer equipment.
  2. Protect:  What can I do?  Two step authentication for email and social media; education by training staff; adopting pass phrases and not changing vs. 90 password changes – phrases like HBAIisthegreatestorganization are really hard to break through; have a cyber security policy – otherwise you might be exposed to a lawsuit or breach laws.  Check into the FCC response plan.
  3. Detect:  Watch logs (automate); intrusion detection system for emails; regular, non-electronic communication; and scrutinize email requests.
  4. Respond:  If you’ve bee hacked then:  Contact banks and financial institutions, contact local FBI office, and go to IC3.gov to file a complaint.
  5. Recover:  Who’s responsible?  There are reporting agencies all over; reputation damage, balance sheet disruption, backup and backup, and look into cyber insurance.

For more information, go to the FTC’s small business portal by clicking here.  There are tip sheets, videos, a blog, and enforcement cases.

Wire Fraud and Real Estate

Email hackers are becoming increasingly devious. And now, more of them are targeting consumers involved in real estate transactions.  A growing trend among hackers is to rummage through consumers’ email inboxes to identify people in the process of buying a home or land.

When these hackers find a potential target, they send a bogus email that looks like it’s from the home buyer’s real estate agent, title company or attorney saying there are new money-wiring procedures. The home buyers are given falsified instructions and a fraudulent account number to which many of them unwittingly wire funds – which rarely are recovered.

The American Land Title Association recently formed a coalition of industry organizations to discuss best practices and develop methods of educating consumers to better recognize possible scams.  In addition to NAHB, the coalition includes representatives from the Credit Union National Association, the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, Wells Fargo and others.  Some of the tips shared by these groups, as well as feedback from NAHB members, include:

  1. Consumers should use caution when hitting “Reply” to certain emails. Criminals often use email addresses that are very similar to legitimate ones. When drafting a reply email, it’s safest to delete the email address in the “To” field and then re-type the intended address to ensure it goes to the correct person.
  2. Title companies and lenders should require all wiring instructions either to be faxed, delivered by courier, or requested in-person. Many businesses have already deemed email and telephone calls as unacceptable methods of conveying wiring instructions.
  3. Consumer requests regarding wire transfers should only be done in-person at a financial institution. In the case of requests to wire loan proceeds, the bank should initiate contact with the attorney to obtain wiring instructions.
  4. Companies should consider adding a notification below email signatures. For example: IMPORTANT NOTICE: Never trust wiring instructions sent via email. Cyber criminals are hacking email accounts and sending emails with fake wiring instructions. Always independently confirm wiring instructions in-person or via a trusted and verified phone number. Never wire money without double-checking that the wiring instructions are correct.

State Fire Marshal’s Code Amendment to Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office will hold a stakeholder meeting in early November regarding changes to carbon monoxide alarms.  Check it out here and email Jay Iverson with any questions or concerns.

Made your IBS Room Reservations Yet?

There are only 83 days until the 2018 International Builders’ Show® (IBS)! Have you made room reservations? The HBA Housing Deadline is October 30. You can find more information here regarding hotel and travel to Orlando.  Our Iowa block is at the Springhill Suites and you will be directed to there, if any rooms are left.  We will once again have a gathering of our Iowa registrants at the Rosen Centre – combining efforts with our Area 10 friends:  Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  You will receive a personal invite if registered.

Association Health Plans – Finally Some Progress!

There is an association for just about any group that you can imagine and we’ve always dreamt about pooling resources together for an opportunity to empower small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance plans for their employees.  Iowa is especially difficult and the inability to sell across state lines has been an issue.

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order that would ease restrictions on association health plans, what’s the next step to make this a reality for local HBAs across the land?

While we are very excited by Trump’s actions in signing the executive order on association health plans, there are still a lot of unanswered questions moving forward. Though the general intent is clear, the executive order itself does not change existing law. Rather, it directs federal agencies to determine the extent of the regulatory actions they can pursue to meet the President’s health care directives.

Those actions are likely limited compared to legislative steps like bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate that could make more substantive and permanent changes to the law to expand the ability of businesses to form association health plans.

The executive order directs the Department of Labor to consider proposing regulations or guidance on association health plans within 60 days. As a result, it will be weeks if not months before we see a proposal take shape. We will have a better idea of how plans would need to be structured and how state insurance regulators will respond once that becomes available.  Additionally, it is likely that there will be legal challenges mounted that could further slow the process as implementation starts to take shape.

Homeowner Equity Keeps Improving

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System published the Financial Accounts of the United States for the second quarter of 2017. The balance sheet of U.S. households with real estate continues to improve as the increases in home prices continue.

Households’ owner-occupied real estate increased to $23.8 trillion in the second quarter of 2017, $1,597 billion more than the second quarter of 2016. Total home mortgage debt outstanding stands at $9.9 trillion, $250 billion more than the same period of 2016. Since the market value of households’ real estate appreciated and liabilities (home mortgages) grew more slowly, the value of owners’ equity in real estate, the difference between the value of owner-occupied real estate and home mortgage debt, rose to $13.9 trillion over the second quarter of 2017.

The figure below shows the changes in the aggregate market value of households’ real estate, aggregate mortgage debt and the aggregate value of owners’ equity in real estate.

Member Advantage Discounts

Your 3-in-1 membership includes an exclusive program from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called Member Advantage. This offers you ways to reduce expenses, increase efficiency, and maximize profits through discounts on products and services with leading, national companies. To learn more about these discounts and how to access the savings go to NAHB Member Discounts. Click here for an overview of all discounts.

NKBA Vendor Show November 9

The Iowa Chapter of NKBA would like to invite our members to their vendor show on November 9 in West Des Moines.  If that’s of interest, find the details here.

Iowa Skilled Trades Limited Edition Shirt

This is a limited edition (150) Iowa Skilled Trades shirt just like you saw at the Iowa Skilled Trades event. Just like the event, all proceeds will go to Skilled Trades scholarships throughout the State of Iowa.  Shirt sizes run big and will not shrink.  Click here to claim yours today.

   The Greater Iowa City HBA held their membership meeting at Kinnick stadium last week with wrestling coach Tom Brands.  It was a well attended event.

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