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11 First Sentences That Guarantee the Rest of Your Email Won't Get Read

posted Mar 13, 2018, 10:01 AM by Kim Whitlock

Even if your intentions are professional and sincere.

Imagine you get this email. You don't know the sender, but you open it anyway. How long would you keep reading?

Dear Jeff,

I hope you're having a great President's Day! I definitely am. Even though I'm spending a little time at work right now, I plan to spend at least part of the day having fun with friends. We're going snowboarding. I can't wait!"

"I am writing to ask if you would be interested in...

Would you keep reading? Generally speaking, would you even have made it to the second paragraph? I know: The sender was trying to establish rapport. But still -- do you care about the President's Day plans of someone you don't know?

Nope. Instead you were thinking, "Clearly you want something. Can you please get to it?"

Now imagine you get this email:

We would love to have you on our show to talk about your book. Our podcast regularly appears in the top 10 of 'What's Hot' in the Business category of Apple Podcasts...

Would you keep reading? I know I did.

Here's the thing. We all get cold emails, and we're all incredibly good at sniffing out boilerplate openings and forced friendliness. Even if we do keep reading, canned openings negatively impact our impression of what is to come -- and make it much less likely we'll respond positively to the actual message of the email.

Think I'm wrong? Tell me how many times you've seen the following opening lines in an email and still kept reading.

"I thought I would circle back ..."

Yes, because I didn't respond the first time you emailed. But why will I respond this time... especially when the rest of your email is just copied and pasted from your original email?

In the same vein, this won't work either:

"In case you missed this ..."

Maybe I did miss this.

Or maybe I wasn't interested.

Occasionally the recipient may have missed your original email. But know the person you're targeting. If it's someone who gets dozens of unsolicited emails a day, like, say, Tim Ferriss, then his lack of response doesn't mean he missed it. He didn't respond because he gets too many emails to respond to each one individually. If he's interested, he'll respond.

And just in case he really did miss it, find a more creative way to send another email. "In case you missed this" only ensures that even if he does see your second email, he's not going to read it.

And that's also true for:

"I'm just following up ..."

Occasionally a follow-up is warranted. If I said I would do something, and I haven't, by all means, please follow up. It's embarrassing to admit, but I sometimes do forget.

But if you're just "following up," or "circling back," or finding out if the recipient "missed this," find a more creative opening line.

Look at what you wrote in the first email. In all likelihood it was benefit-driven -- foryou. Find a way to benefit the recipient. Always give, long before you hope to receive.

"I hope this finds you well."

I get this one at least four times a day. While I appreciate the sentiment, I immediately think two things. I first wonder when Dickensian greetings came back into vogue. But more important, "I hope this finds you well" screams "We don't know each other."

And while every new friendship has to start somewhere, "I hope this finds you well" is unlikely to be the place.

That's also true for:

"I hope you had a great weekend."

Fine if it comes from a friend (even though none of my friends ever open an email that way). Otherwise it's just forced friendliness. Asking "How was the Rolex 24?" shows you know me personally. Asking "How is your next book coming?" shows you know me professionally.

Granted, "I hope you had a great weekend" is an attempt to be friendly. But really: Do you expect people to respond? Do you really want to know about their weekend? Nah. What you really care about is how they respond to the meat of your email.

In time, some professional relationships do also become personal. But when the initial contact is through email, the relationships always starts as a professional one. Work to establish that first. Then a friendship might follow.

But not if you pretend that we're already friends.

"You might be surprised to learn ..."

No, I won't be, because I won't read the rest of your email. Like fake friendliness, interest-starters feel canned and forced. If I might be surprised, shoot, go ahead and surprise me with your opening line.

The same is true for:

"Did you know ...?"

Granted, asking a question can be a way to engage readers. But not in the opening line of an email since what we all do know is that whatever you claim we don't know is something you will then solve for us, probably for a fee.

"Did you know" and, "You might be surprised to learn" are clear signals that a sales pitch is coming. Maybe that's not your intent -- but we'll assume it is.

And a couple quick ones:

"My name is ..."

I already knew that. Your name appears in the sender field.

"I would like to introduce myself ..."

Sometimes introducing yourself first is OK, but in most cases the best approach is to say what you can do for the recipient (or what you want) first.

Then, if we're interested, we'll be willing to check out whether you're the right person to provide it (or are someone we want to help).

"I know you're really busy ..."

This is always followed by "but ..." (which is a lot like saying, "I know this is going to hurt your feelings, but ..."), Acknowledging a situation and then choosing to ignore that situation is an off-putting way to start.

Instead, respect the recipient's time by getting to the point: The less fluff, the better.

"I want to ask a quick favor."

At least in my experience, a "quick favor" never turns out to be quick. And neither does the ask itself.

Here's a better way to do it. I recently received this one-line email:

Daniel Coyle's new book is about high performance teams, I would love to have him on my podcast, and I'm hoping you can connect us.

He clearly knows I know Dan, and the name of the podcast was in the sender's sig. Easy ask, and I always try to help out people I know, so I forwarded his email to Dan with one line: "Want me to connect you guys?" (I don't share people's email addresses without asking.)

Dan said yes. That's the kind of favor I'm happy to do.

But if the email had led with something like, "I am hoping you will do a quick favor for me. My name is John Doe, and in addition to running Acme Industries I am also the host of ..."

Nope. Probably not -- because I probably wouldn't have stuck with it long enough to get to the good stuff.

And that, ultimately, is the point. Your may have great intentions. You may mean extremely well. You may only be trying to be friendly, courteous, and professional.

But if you start your emails with opening lines like the ones above, most people will assume the worst -- not the best.

Find a different way to be friendly, courteous, and professional -- especially if you want your emails to actually be read.



posted Mar 6, 2018, 7:33 AM by Kim Whitlock   [ updated Mar 6, 2018, 7:35 AM ]

Do you stay up at night wondering whether your insurance will cover a wire fraud scam?  

According to a 2015 cyber and privacy insurance survey by The Betterley Report, out of 31 leading cyber insurance providers, only eight cover fraudulent wire transfer. Of those eight insurers, “a lot have further restrictions if the insured is involved in the wire fraud,” says Garrett Droege, executive director of TechAssure, an international association of technology-related risk insurance experts.[1]  

Under traditional commercial crime policies, courts draw a distinction between losses where a thief hacks the insured’s computer systems, and losses where the insured voluntarily transfers funds. Courts have found  that losses from voluntary transfer of funds, including social engineering losses, are generally not covered because they arise from an authorized transfer of funds. In addition, many commercial crime policies contain a “voluntary parting” exclusion on which the carriers will seek to rely in order to argue that coverage for these types of losses is precluded.

When negotiating your coverage you should aim for breadth and flexibility with respect to such coverage and remember that, while email is likely to be involved, it is unlikely to be the singular cause of loss. 

The language matters:  Four recent lawsuits by companies seeking coverage under similar crime policies provide useful insight to businesses looking to recover money lost to social engineering scams and other types of fraudulent transfers. In each case, employees were tricked into wiring money to cybercriminals who used fraudulent emails to impersonate legitimate vendors, clients or company executives.  Although the facts in these cases were similar, the court in each relied more on specific language of the policy to reach opposite decisions.  These four recent cases emphasize the importance of having the right language in your insurance policy for the type of frauds you are most likely to experience. 

Two recent victories for policyholders:  In perhaps the most relevant case for the type of wire fraud scam we have seen in the real estate industry, the court in Principle Solutions Group LLC v. Ironshore Indemnity Inc.[2]  granted summary judgment in favor of the policyholder, finding the language of the crime policy’s “computer and funds transfer fraud” provision is ambiguous and must therefore be interpreted in the policyholder’s favor. The fact that there were multiple steps between the initial email and the transfer does not free the insurer from its coverage obligations. 

In Medidata Solutions Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co,[3] it was found that the computer fraud provision in the crime policy covered losses that resulted from the “fraudulent entry” or changing of data in the policyholder’s computer system.  The policy at issue defined “computer system” broadly to include “communication facilities…utilized by” the insured and “data” as including any “representation of information.” Those definitions proved pivotal in the court’s decision.  Had the crime policy defined the terms more narrowly—for example, to cover only systems “owned and operated by” the company, as many policies do—the policyholder would have been out of luck.

Two Insurer Friendly Decisions:  In American Tooling Center Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America and Apache Corp. v. Great American Insurance Co, the respective courts determined that the fraudulent emails did not cause the wire transfers, people did by failing in their processes and scrutiny. Insurers commonly argue that fraudulently-induced losses are not covered because the purported “loss” was “authorized,” either because the policy excludes coverage for “authorized” transfers or only covers “unauthorized” transfers.

The computer fraud provision in Apache’s commercial crime policy extended coverage for losses “resulting directly from the use of any computer to fraudulently cause a transfer.”  The panel emphasized that the fraudulent email was just one step in an intricate scheme that ultimately led Apache employees to authorize legitimate transfers, albeit to a bogus account.[4]

Similarly, American Tooling’s crime policy extended coverage to any “direct loss” that was “directly caused by” the use of a computer.  Again,  the company took several steps between when it received the fraudster’s emails and when it wired the funds.[5]

Will you be covered?

Some Carriers are Now Offering Social Engineering Fraud Coverage on a Limited Basis.  The endorsements are designed to provide coverage when an employee is intentionally misled by electronic or written instructions from a person purporting to be a company executive or employee, vendor, client, or customer, to transfer money or property. These endorsements are often called “social engineering fraud” endorsements or “payment instruction fraud” endorsements. Some carriers will require companies seeking this type of coverage to complete a supplemental application or provide other underwriting information.

[1] The Betterely Report;

[2] The district court case is Principle Solutions Group LLC v. Ironshore Indemnity Inc., case number 1:15-cv-04130, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. The appellate court case is Principle Solutions Group LLC v. Ironshore Indemnity Inc., case number 17-11703, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

[3] The district court case is Medidata Solutions Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co., case number 1:15-cv-00907, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The appellate court case is Medidata Solutions Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co., case number 17-2492, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

[4] The case is Apache Corp. v. Great American Insurance Co., case number 15-20499, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

[5] The district court case is American Tooling Center Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, case number 5:16-cv-12108, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The appellate court case is American Tooling Center Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, case number 17-2014, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Educating Your Consumer About Title Insurance

posted Feb 5, 2018, 12:43 PM by Kim Whitlock   [ updated Mar 6, 2018, 7:36 AM ]

Title insurance is not homeowner’s insurance. Title insurance is about "risk elimination" of title problems arising from past events and not "risk assumption" of future events.

Before offering to issue a title insurance policy, a title company will do a title search to learn whether there are any problems or limitations with the title. This search is done in an effort to minimize the risks of offering insurance. By minimizing the risks of claims being made, a title insurance company is able to offer its insurance policies for a relatively low, one-time fee.

According to the American Land Title Association, 25% of properties have a title defect that requires clearing and curing title prior to closing and, in most cases, this work is performed and cured without the parties to the transaction ever knowing about it. Problems such as deeds, wills, and/or trusts that contain improper vesting and incorrect names, outstanding mortgages, judgements, and tax liens, easements, or incorrect notary acknowledgments are generally found through the title search and usually can be cleared up before the closing on the property.

The cost for this work is paid with title insurance premiums; both to the title agent in the form of commissions and to third-party service providers for reviewing and clearing title. Title insurance premiums also pay for the cost of maintaining accuracy of title plants and other title records.

So, in addition to paying out claims for human error or fraud by a seller or prior homeowner, the title insurance premium also covers work performed for eliminating the risk of a title defect.

Before the advent of title insurance, homebuyers hired and paid attorneys to review title, cure title, and issue an attorney’s opinion title. If the attorney erred, the homeowner could make a claim against the attorney – assuming the attorney had not since been disbarred for malpractice.

5 Strategy Execution Tips

posted Feb 5, 2018, 10:59 AM by Kim Whitlock   [ updated Feb 6, 2018, 8:28 AM by web admin ]

You’ve got huge dreams. You make an awesome strategic plan. Everyone gets excited as you take your first steps to making those dreams a reality.

Then... It all fizzles out. Sound familiar? You’re not alone – over 70% of all strategic plans fail. We’ve compiled 5 strategy execution tips into this one post, to give your strategic plan the best possible chance to succeed.

#1 Maintain the momentum

Having a great strategic plan is a good place to start. But how often have you seen an organization put a great deal of effort goes into planning and launching their strategy, but within weeks or even days, people just go back to business-as-usual and the whole exercise is for naught. Create a momentum plan to go alongside your actual plan. Schedule regular strategy meetings, workshops and Q&As. Throw in some fun strategy events throughout the year (parties, off-sites, etc). For larger organizations, send out regular strategy surveys and updates to keep strategy top of mind for your people.

#2 Embed strategy into current processes

Our second strategy execution tip is all about people. The last thing you want is for strategy to be seen as an addition to people’s current workloads. Instead, strategy and strategic thinking needs to become a part of how people work, and everything that they do. If you’re using a cloud based strategy platform, make use of the reports and dashboards in your team meetings. Ensure that processes like end-of-year appraisals and pay reviews make direct reference to the success of the strategic plan. Whenever you launch a new initiative or project, go out of your way to demonstrate how it aligns to one of your strategic focus areas – and ensure others do the same too.

#3 Celebrate success

Your strategy will never really ‘finish’ – it will evolve over time and you’ll create new goals as you hit existing ones. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the small successes along the way. The first time you achieve one of your organizational goals, enjoy it! Not privately, but instead share that success with the entire organization. Whether it’s a simple email or a full blown party, the fact that you’re so notably celebrating the success of a strategic goal is not only great for morale, but it also sends a strong message that the execution of the plan really matters.

#4 Iterate. Then iterate some more

Here’s the reality – when you created your strategic plan, you didn’t get it 100% right. Circumstances change, the world moves on, whatever the reasons – certain parts of your strategy will either change or disappear completely. That’s ok! What’s not ok, is sticking dogmatically to a plan that is becoming less and less relevant with each passing day. Revisit your plan, change it, communicate those changes and be upfront with your people about the reasons why things have changed. They’ll appreciate the honesty and respect, but even more importantly your plan will remain relevant and credible.

#5 Empower people

Nothing drives delivery of a strategic plan like accountability and empowerment. Try creating a focus area and giving each of these focus areas to one of your leadership team to champion. It’s not about them having to deliver the goals, but more about them driving the communication, and overall ownership of that aspect of your strategy.

How to Spot the Red Flags of Elder Abuse

posted Feb 5, 2018, 10:47 AM by Kim Whitlock   [ updated Feb 6, 2018, 7:56 AM by web admin ]

In an aging population, more and more of your clients are likely to be seniors. Unfortunately, you may well run into cases where they’ve become targets of financial fraud. 

Senior Citizen
If an insured real estate transaction is later found to be void, title and settlement companies may expose themselves to escrow or policy losses. During a recent compliance webinar hosted by ALTA, 53 percent of attendees indicated they’ve handled a transaction where they observed an instance of elder abuse. It is critical to be alert to financial elder abuse and recognize the red flags.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, financial exploitation of the elderly is one of the most frequently reported forms of elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that such abuse costs older adults around $2.9 billion annually. Reported title claims involving elder abuse are on the rise as well, and on average are more expensive to resolve than other categories of claims.

Surprisingly, close to 90% of elder financial abuse takes place in domestic settings instead of long-term care facilities and is most often caused by family members according to the National Adult Protective Services. The second most common group of abusers consists of professional criminals such as home repair scammers and telemarketers. The third group consists of friends or others in a position of trust. This can be done through promises of lifelong care or through the use of a power of attorney authorizing the perpetrator to access an elder's financial assets.

Because many cases involve real estate, you should be familiar with potentially high-risk schemes. Reverse mortgages, property investment, and foreclosure-rescue offers are areas in which older people are prime targets. But another form of financial abuse—often subtler and more difficult to detect—occurs when a trusted individual exerts undue influence over elderly home owners, convincing them to sell their property, often to devastating effect.

While title and settlement agents typically don’t come into contact with the subject until the closing, it is important to be aware of red flags and proceed cautiously when encountering irregularities or unusual situations. If you remain vigilant for the signs of financial abuse, you’ll avoid becoming embroiled in real estate transactions—and possible legal actions—involving criminal or unethical exploitation of the elderly.
  • Never get to speak directly with the elder person involved in the transaction
  • The appearance of disorientation or lack of understanding
  • The person seems unaware of dates and times
  • The person seems to lack understanding of what the transaction is all about
  • Recent, uninsured deeds in the chain of title
  • Change in contact person or other authorized user
  • Elder borrower not allowed to speak for him or herself
  • No documentation to support third-party’s authority
  • Use of powers of attorney or change in grant of POA
  • Free and clear property
  • Documents signed outside of closing
  • Sales or loan proceeds paid over to somebody other than the borrower or seller
  • Holder of POA wants funds disbursed to him/herself
  • Holder of POA wants to perform acts beyond the scope of the POA
  • Be cautious of recent changes in trustees or expansions in trustee powers
  • Large cashout from a refinance or proceeds being wired to an account not belonging to the senior 

Report suspected abuse. As uncomfortable as it may be to get involved, you should report abuse if you suspect it. Your first call will likely be to your local Adult Protective Services agency. The Elder Justice Initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice also contains support resources by state. You should also notify the lender of any irregularities.

ATGF Guidelines and Requirements for issuance of the ALTA Homeowner’s Policy

posted Jan 24, 2018, 3:41 PM by Kim Whitlock

The ALTA Homeowner’s Policy may be used on purchase transactions, improved property in a platted subdivision, a completed family residential subdivisions, a completed residential condominium unit or improved. Not applicable for construction loans or property that is vacant land. The Proposed Insured must be a “natural person.” No corporations, LLCs, or other entities.Please read the attached bulletin for details.

ATGF Guidelines for clearing judgments in favor of the Office of Recovery Services (“ORS”),

posted Jan 24, 2018, 3:39 PM by Kim Whitlock

Notice of ATGF’s guidelines for clearing  judgments in favor of the Office of Recovery Services (“ORS”), for child support payments.  Pursuant to  UCA 78-45-9.3; 62A-11-312.5; and 62A-11-313(1), ATGF requires the steps outlined in the attached bulletin.

ATGF Agent Remittance Policy - New

posted Jan 24, 2018, 3:05 PM by Kim Whitlock

ATGF continually strives to assist our agents with compliance issues and best practices. In an effort to reduce remittance discrepancies and ensure our agents are remitting the correct payment amount for issued policies, effective May 1, 2018, ATGF will not accept checks if the remittance amount for a policy is incorrect. Please read attached bulletin for more details.

Did you know EPIC offers Quick Type Exceptions & Requirements?

posted Jan 16, 2018, 8:07 AM by web admin

Quick Type makes your job easier by allowing you to list multiple exceptions and requirements with ease. 

Upload single or multiple items to use on current and future files.  We've assembled this simple how-to guide (see the attached PDF) to help you!

Need more help? Contact us for training at or (303) 292-3055 / (800)525-6558

Do You Have The Right Cyber Coverage?

posted Jan 8, 2018, 10:35 AM by web admin   [ updated Jan 8, 2018, 10:38 AM ]

The only thing worse than being a fraud victim is finding out afterwards that your “cyber” coverage actually does not cover you the way you thought it did. 

Not all insurance policies are created equal, and unless you know what to ask for, your coverage may leave you empty handed.

In the insurance world, the term “Cyber” has taken on a broad range of perils. As a title agent, it is important to know the various exposures surrounding “cyber” risks and how to properly protect your agency.

A Breakdown of Cyber Risks and Coverage

Examples of cyber coverage include:

Data breach
Privacy liability
Computer crime
Funds transfer fraud
Breach mitigation
Business interruption
PCI fines
Cost to notify
Fraudulently induced wire transfers

Much of the separate “cyber liability” policies follow the same insuring agreements and coverages, but the sublimits of those coverages are what differentiates them.

With one exception, all of the examples of cyber risks mentioned above are covered by the major cyber carriers. Fraudulent wire transfers is the one coverage line where you’ll see significant differences. One leading insurer used to offer $1M limits, but is now down to $500k. Others specifically exclude the coverage or have low sublimits.

Unfortunately, many insurance carriers will cover only specific cyber scenarios, if any at all. Some title agent E&O policies actually exclude coverage for losses involving cyber aspects.

It is important to note that there is a difference between 1st and 3rd party coverages, as well. A policy could cover “data breach,” for a 3rd party, but not cover your agency (1st party) for the same loss.

The Truth is in the Details 

Everyone knows that there has been a dramatic increase recently in the number of fraudulently induced wire transfers. You would think that “funds transfer fraud” coverage on one of your policies would cover such a loss. This is where the definition and insuring agreement are important.

A policy could cover “funds transfer fraud,” but exclude coverage if the insured (you) had any involvement in the transfer. It is always a good idea to work with an insurance agent who knows the title industry, and periodically review different factual scenarios with them to be sure you are buying what you really need. As with any insurance product, the coverage is set out in the policy (not marketing materials or articles) and for that reason it is important to read and understand your policies.

Policy Options (generally)

Cyber Liability/Data Breach Policy: A full, separate, cyber policy to include 1st and 3rd party coverages as well as fraudulently induced wire transfers.

Business Owners Policy (“BOP”, GL, Property): Endorse your “BOP” to include a broadening cyber endorsement. Not as comprehensive as a separate cyber policy, but is a cost effective option. Review 1st vs 3rd party and wire fraud coverages.

Title Agents E&O: Endorse your title agents E&O policy to include a cyber form. Few carriers have this option. Limited coverage. Generally 3rd party coverage only.

Fidelity Bond: Generally 1st party coverage only. Endorse your fidelity bond to include computer crime, funds transfer fraud, social engineering. Many of your fidelity bond carriers now offer these coverage lines.

You are the first line of defense. 

Educate your employees on the risks and set policies/procedures to help mitigate these losses…

…and buy the RIGHT insurance.


by Matt Becraft and Howard Turk
Republished with permission from ProsperitasForward

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