Tag Archives: Hillsborough Title


Florida Agency Network CEO, Aaron M. Davis, Talks Market Changes in TitleNews Magazine

When it comes to the upcoming CFPB changes, Aaron M. Davis, Florida Agency Network’s founder and CEO, is the man to speak with. Davis gave Jeremy Yohe, of American Land Title Association, his insight into the upcoming market changes in ALTA’s January edition of TitleNews. In the cover story, Davis goes into detail on the new RESPA-TILA disclosures and how to excel in these changing times.

To read the full cover story, click here.


ALTA News: Florida Agency Network Appoints COO

Tampa, Fla.-based Florida Agency Network introduced Mike LaRosa as its new chief operating officer.

“There have certainly been some milestones in our company and network that have been game changing,” said Aaron Davis, chief executive officer of the Florida Agency Network and its multiple brands, which include Hillsborough Title, Trident Title, Paramount Title, Tampa Bay Title, Cornerstone Title, HomePlus Title, Uptown Title, Bella Title, Performance Title & Escrow and Progressive Title Solutions. “Having the caliber of person and operator like Mike LaRosa join us was never something we could have imagined years ago. Mike brings 16 years of industry experience and the operational expertise of running one of the largest title insurance underwriters to the Florida Agency Network,”

In 1999, LaRosa began his title insurance career as associate counsel at First American Title’s divisional headquarters in Tallahassee. By 2000, he moved to Tampa to work with the partnership division, where he was promoted to vice president and counsel. He spent six years in the that role establishing affiliated business arrangement title agencies with mortgage, builder/developer and real estate professionals throughout the Southeast.

LaRosa was named Tampa Bay agency manager in 2007. His territory eventually expanded to include the southwest region of Florida. Ultimately, he was promoted to Florida state agency manager where he has spent the past three and a half years.

For the original feature, click here.


Florida Agency Network Announces Mike LaRosa As Chief Operating Officer

TAMPA, FLA. – April 6, 2015 – Florida Agency Network, Florida’s largest network of independent title agencies, is proud to introduce Mike LaRosa, Esq., as the new Chief Operating Officer for the company.

“There have certainly been some milestones in our company and network that have been game changing. Having the caliber of person and operator like Mike LaRosa join us was never something we could have imagined years ago. Mike brings 16 years  of industry experience and the operational expertise of running one of the largest title insurance underwriters to the Florida Agency Network. We are thrilled to have Mike join our growing family,” says Aaron M. Davis, CEO of the Florida Agency Network and its multiple brands, which include Hillsborough Title, Trident Title, Paramount Title, Tampa Bay Title, Cornerstone Title, HomePlus Title, Uptown Title, Bella Title, Performance Title & Escrow, and Progressive Title Solutions.

LaRosa graduated from the University of Florida with both his Bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor degree in 1998. In 1999, LaRosa began his title insurance career with First American Title as Associate Counsel at the company’s divisional headquarters in Tallahassee. By 2000 he moved to Tampa to work with the Partnership Division, where he was promoted to Vice President and Counsel. He spent six years in the Partnership Division establishing affiliated business arrangement title agencies with mortgage, builder/developer, and real estate professionals throughout the Southeast.

In 2007 LaRosa was named Tampa Bay Agency Manager, and his territory was eventually expanded to include the entire southwest region of Florida. Ultimately he was promoted to Florida State Agency Manager where he has spent the past three and a half years. Throughout his career within First American he had the opportunity to speak at various industry functions, and he enjoyed the privilege of being selected to participate in the company’s specialized leadership training program geared at developing its internal leaders.

The Florida Agency Network is excited to have LaRosa onboard to help grow its statewide footprint while maintaining a strong, customer-service brand commitment to the community.

 

To read the full feature, click here.


Hillsborough Title, Florida Agency Network strike deal for Bella Title

Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 2:13pm EST

Margie Manning | Tampa Bay Business Journal

 

Florida Agency Network has acquired Bella Title, a Land O’ Lakes-based real estate title company.

 

Financial terms were not disclosed. Mica Butterwood, owner and operator of Bella Title, will serve as Florida Agency Network’s relationship manager for northern Hillsborough County, a statement said.

Florida Agency Network is an umbrella organization of title companies that have been consolidated amid industry changes. Launched by Aaron Davis, president and CEO, and with its roots in Hillsborough Title in Plant City, Florida Agency Network has grown to be the largest title organization in Florida, Davis said.

“Just five years ago, we had one office and five employees,” Davis said. “Today we have 27 offices and more than 200 staffers.”

The Dodd-Frank financial reform measure is driving consolidation, Davis said. Title companies are now considered part of the financial services sector, and face increasing costs of regulatory compliance, including higher E&O [errors and omissions] insurance, banking-type audits and cybersecurity mandates.

“A lot of agencies are going out of business, selling or being rolled into a larger agency like mine,” Davis said.

In addition to Hillsborough Title and Bella Title, other agencies in the network are: Tampa Bay Title, Paramount Title, Homeplus Title, Cornerstone Title, Uptown Title, Trident Title, Progressive Title Solutions, Performance Title & Escrow and CU Title.

 

Original Article

 


How To Keep Your Email Safe And Secure

Your email is your business’s lifeblood these days. Most clients like the convenience of reading their updates on their home, on their title commitment, and everything else through the convenience of email. And, while they may or may not be following safe procedures, it should be one of your primary concerns.

After all, your clients private information is in those emails. Financial records, account numbers, names, and other forms of sensitive data that shouldn’t be released to the public. What if someone guesses your password or otherwise gets access?

There are some very good tips you can follow to keep your email safe. Most of these solutions are simpler than some recipes you’ve been dying to try or some driving maneuvers you perform daily. If you add these layers of security, you can be confident in your email’s safety.

Password Security

The first line of defense against people who’d like your information is to create strong, unique, and unguessable passwords to your accounts. Many people tend to use passwords like “pa$$word1! “ when that’s one of the most easily guessed passwords. Below is a list pulled from CBS News of the 10 most common passwords last year:

 

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. 123456789
  7. 111111
  8. 1234567
  9. iloveyou
  10. adobe123

 

If you see any of your passwords on here, you should be changing them right now. Those are the most common and they are also the most easily guessed.

Best practice for passwords is to use a random string of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols of significant length (8 or more characters). It should look more like “1dfGHt#2” than “password.”

If you’re worried about remembering passwords, use a password manager app or sync tool like iCloud Keychain or 1Password. That way, you can generate extremely secure passwords that your phone and/or computer will put in automatically for you while still maintaining the security that you need.

Phishing Attempts

But, a good password isn’t worth anything if you give it away willingly. We’ve all been warned about phishing and spam, and never to click links in emails where you (a) weren’t expecting an email or (b) don’t know the sender. Those maxims are still true but there’s even more to be worried about now.

Phishing is, specifically, the act of imitating a legitimate company’s login screen to get your password. They’re getting good at replicating the official website, too. Here are some common traits of phishing emails, pulled from Microsoft:

  • Threats
    • An email might claim your account will be shut down or important documents will be lost if you don’t take action through their links. This is usually false. If it isn’t, you’ll be notified when you log in to the real service through a link you’re familiar with.
  • Grammar errors
    • Most spam artists are not well known for having good grammar and punctuation. If the email reads choppy or wrong, it’s most likely a fake.
  • Email is “from” a big company
    • Phishers generally don’t want information for smaller, niche websites, so be especially suspicious of emails from the big guys: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Follow this rule of thumb if you don’t want to get caught by a phishing scam: if you receive an email from anyone asking you to login, give them your password, or otherwise give up information, do not use their links or give them that information. Instead, if you’re concerned, go to the website they’re claiming to be from yourself by hand-typing the URL into your browser. That way, you can be sure you’re at the right place.

A problem that faces real estate and title professionals in particular are schemes to get you to transfer funds to a dummy account. The emails in question will look almost exactly like real requests for transfers and if you’re not careful, you might end up sending large amounts of money to fake accounts. When in doubt, verify the transaction request with the sender if you know them, or take steps to find out if they’re legit. Use the tips above to recognize and avoid emails intended to steal passwords or cash and delete the offending messages as soon as you can.

Security Questions

Recovery options are also difficult because if you’re vigilant about setting a good password and avoiding/ignoring phishing but make your security questions easy to answer or easily researched, you’ve done a lot of hard work for nothing. When you set up your security questions, make sure they’re:

  • Obscure
  • Not public information
  • Instantly memorable

If you’ve ever revealed your security question’s answer anywhere, ever, don’t use it. Instead, if you’re given the option, make up your own question about something you don’t tell others, or use the question that you’ve never told anyone. Be aware, too, that some image memes that are commonly shared on Facebook are looking for information commonly found in these questions. If you know you use certain details for these questions, don’t publish them on any social media network or tell anyone you don’t trust.

2-Factor Authentication

Some websites (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) have introduced what’s known as 2-factor authentication. It may sound complex but it’s actually rather simple: they require any password input to have another, smaller password generated by another device. The services I mentioned earlier all use apps on iPhones/Androids to generate the code. If you activate this system, you’ll be asked for a code each time you log in that only you, on your device, can make. That way, even if someone else has your password, the only way anyone’s getting in is if they have your code generator—and they’d need to steal your phone for that.

Stay Safe

The only way that you’re going to lose your data and your email account if you use these tips would be to hand it to them directly. Staying safe has never been easier thanks to the basic tools that we’ve been given from the email providers themselves and the basic tips to maintaining a safe, secure email system earlier in the email: make a good password, give it to no one, don’t log in through links but rather through the sites themselves, and just practice good email management, and you’ll be fine!

 

Actionable Tips

Follow these basic tips to stay safe through your email:

  • Trust no one
    • Any email coming from anyone you don’t know or any company from whom you’re not expecting an email is suspect. Don’t click those links.
    • Any legitimate web service or company can verify those requests. Call them or send an email directly to your contact, not by “reply.”
  • Use good passwords
    • Get rid of simple passwords and those “123456” codes—they will get you into trouble.
    • Passwords should contain:
      • At least 8 characters (the more the better)
      • Symbols, numbers, and both upper and lower case letters
      • A jumble of letters that can’t be found in a dictionary
  • Use additional account protection
    • Services like Google’s Authenticator and other forms of two-factor security make it harder for phishing and brute-force password hacking. Use those services.
    • Don’t make your security answers public information—if it’s used to secure an account, keep it to yourself.
  • Use good judgement
    • If an email feels wrong or is unexpected, confirm and verify it. It’s usually too good to be true.

Monitoring Your Brand Image

As professionals, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on in the world we live in. From the vast social networks that we must keep track of to the niche sites where our businesses might be talked about without our knowledge, how can you keep your eyes on what’s being said—and how can you use that information to make your business better? reputation poster

Google Alerts

One popular way of monitoring your image is to use Google Alerts to ensure that you’re always on top of what Google sees—and we all know that Google sees just about everything. Put your name into the box, set your email to receive the alerts, and you’ll be on your way. If there’s something new that Google finds, you’ll hear about it as often as you like. That way, if something happens in one of the remote corners of the web, you’ll know about it.

Social Media

You can track your image on social media channels mostly by making sure you maintain a solid presence online. The internet is not shy about telling you exactly what it thinks, good or bad. If you give people an outlet to pour out their experiences, good or bad, you’ll hear about it. In fact, some companies have taken to proactively diagnosing and fixing the problems while engaging entirely through social media channels. Listening to social media for your name or business name can be as simple as searching through Twitter, Facebook, or your preferred network’s search function, but you might consider using a solution like Hootsuite to set up search terms on each network that it will monitor and create a dashboard for. It might make it simpler for you to be listening for what people are saying about you.

Location Websites

A big one that people don’t generally think of is to be monitoring sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, and other map-based sites where people might be tempted to leave bad reviews or say bad things. Make sure that in your search of the internet that you keep sites like these in mind. It’ll help you in the long run because not only is it good to claim your locations and keep the info up-to-date, you’ll be able to head off customers who didn’t use the proper support channels to let you know about the problem.

Overall, monitoring your online image is easy once you get the hang of it. In fact, most of it is automated thanks to tools like Alerts and Hootsuite. Don’t let it distract you from the goal of providing the best client service that you can.


Beware That Free WiFi

We’re sure that you’re all familiar with data caps as members of the RE industry. After all, with cell phones becoming increasingly common (91% of adults have one), usage is at an all time high—which might explain why companies such as AT&T and Verizon put data caps in place, to make more money and to reduce network congestion. And you, as professionals, use apps like Maps and services like Evernote to keep everything up to date with your services. When your data cap is looming large over you, free WiFi might seem like a godsend. Use your services without adding to your data cap—the perfect combination!

But, before you connect to just any network, we have a warning for you: while WiFi from businesses and private providers like Brighthouse or AT&T is everywhere, it’s also dangerous.

Unsecured Networks

Free WiFi feels great, but certain providers of free WiFi prefer to use managed systems rather than password-secured hotspots like businesses use—usually to ensure that the public can connect and increase their awareness. But the problem here is that on an unsecured network like this—even if there’s a login screen for your personal credentials—none of your data is properly encrypted, meaning that anyone can get on the network and, with a little bit of knowledge and work, can get your personal information from what you’re broadcasting over the air.

While some apps and websites do use encrpytion to connect (such as Facebook and most banks), care should be taken because other sites and apps have not adopted the standard. Responsible use of WiFi can and will make your life better but it only takes one irresponsible person to ruin your accounts or your work. Be safe when connecting!

Fake Hotspots

We’ve also been receiving reports of thieves using fake hotspots to lure you into trusting them. They follow the same system as phishing attempts through your email: recreating websites to look official to get you to give up your credentials. It’s worse when you realize that most cell phones (regardless of operating system) are set up to automatically connect to their provider’s hotspots automatically—but they put no controls in place to prevent fakes from replacing them.

Here’s a scenario: let’s say your WiFi is toggled on your iPhone and you’re walking to a showing. If someone in the area has named their WiFi “attwifi,” the normal name for AT&T’s hotspots, you’ll automatically connect whether the hotspot’s legitimate or not. Then the thief can go to work sniffing out your data. If you’re not expecting a free WiFi hotspot, you might not notice and then you’ll be compromised.

Securing Your Data

There are steps you can take to help prevent this problem. For one thing, every modern smartphone has an indicator showing that a website is secured and encrypted (meaning it’s far harder to read what you’re sending). On iPhone, there will be a grey lock next to the name of the site you’re on. This means that the connection is secured and the identity of the site is verified by a third party. On Android, it depends on browser, but the Chrome browser displays a green lock. Look for these symbols when doing any transaction with your data! Without them, you are at risk.

iPhone Safari Secured Website
What a secured website looks like on Safari

 

Mobile Chrome Secured Website
What a secured website looks like on Chrome

Secondly, you should turn off auto-login to any and all WiFi hotspots that they’re currently enabled for. While it’s a bit more work to do, it’s not all that difficult to do. On iPhone, it’s in Settings > WiFi > (Network Name — click the circled “i” symbol) > Auto-Join.

These tips will make your life more secure and protect your contacts, leads, and business from being spied upon—or worse!