Real estate title insurance company exposed 885,000,000 customers' records, going back 16 years: bank statements, drivers' licenses, SSNs, and tax records

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Sheesh. I might as well publish all my private info myself and stop worrying about it…


How can a country of 327 million people, the majority of whom don’t own real property, have 885,000,000 property transaction records at one title insurance company. This seems odd., no?

  • Refinancing as interest rates fall?
  • Frequent turnover and moving
  • Transactions by non-residents
  • Corporations and other entities trading in properties
  • 16 years’ worth

And a single sale could involve many transactions if you count all the paperwork between banks, buyers, sellers, agents, brokers.


Just read up on title insurance because I didn’t know what it actually was.

Turns out it’s a necessary thing due to the US having a stupid and lazily built leagal framework for real estate titles that appears to be designed to generate lawsuits as there’s no governmental authority that keeps track of conclusive evidence as to who owns what land.

Seems arcane and easily fixable with things like databases and computers.

If done correctly.


Holy craaaaap, I used to work for them! Granted, I wasn’t involved with transactions or insurance. I simply made flood plain determinations for existing structures.


That seems like a growth industry.


Pardon the pun, but it ebbs and flows. I’m pretty sure they’ve mechanized the process by now, as you’re just comparing plats, FEMA maps, and aerial photographs.


You’re right that it’s likely due to, “stupid and lazily built leagal framework for real estate titles.” Some of the scenarios I was told about were because of probate or shared ownership and bad faith sales. Also old, pre-paperwork property ownership. So I can see how lazy documenting and legal process would cause this, but I don’t see how computers and databases would fix it. It also seems like property registration is done by each county? It looks like there’s around 3000 counties in the US.


At least according to the wiki, property registration doesn’t actually count as conclusive proof of ownership in the US.

Seems to me like a way to fix it would just have a national registry everyone’s required to use in addition to legally making it the final authority on who owns what. As I understand it that’s how it works in most of the world. And eventually all the land will be accounted for and we wouldn’t need to waste billions of dollars insuring transactions because a few million dollars would run the bureaucracy that replaced the current system.


Oh! To be a practicing Luddite these days and in every way imaginable.


it seems long past the time when an osha or other federal licensing regime would have been setup to assist companies and states with compliance to standards.

the only things we seem to have are the gutted consumer protection agency, and the nsa. but the nsa has been completely focused on offense instead of defense.

our backwards country. :confused:


That is just literally unbelievable. Absolute amateur hour bullshit.


First American Financial Corp

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the company’s founders were not the “first” Americans.

I guess “Euro-White New-American Financial Corp” doesn’t have the same ring to it.


I forgot the caveat, where in states like Texas or Louisiana, they’re still trading properties based on archaic descriptive information drawn from the previous plat description. Seemingly, stuff like “Startiing at stone marker so-many-degrees latitude by so-many-degrees longitude, screw up your face and proceed 6,749 paces to the old pine with the bent nail sticking out of it…” that goes on for 20 pages, because it’s literally incorporating portions of the plats from all previous transfers.


I happen be a title examiner at said title company. There’ve been questions here as to what we do. What’s the point of title insurance? Good questions all. Ultimately we guarantee real estate transactions. Not the structure (usually a house), but what’s of record: covenants, conditions, restricts, easements, agreements, notices, anything that can be recorded and made of public record. We also look for monitary items like deeds of trusts, mortgages, real estate contracts, UCC’s, as well as judgments and liens - we search people as well, because what they do can attach to real property. Through in real estate taxes, too. We also look for legal access - not everyone lives on a public right of way. Then we give you a legal description for your real property - platted or meets and bounds (arbitrary). We bind this information up (and what we do is sell information), and put it a report that will turn into a policy (owner’s or lender’s). People spend a lot of money on their homes and they need guarantees - whether they know it or not. That said, the company has had its problems. They cut corners, lots of corners. And it will cost them; maybe this it? I don’t know. But there are ‘leaks’ all over the place and management has been either turning a blind eye, or putting people a places they have no business being in and it’s getting real frustrating to be happy employee. We make ton of money, but our product overall sucks -and it’s not just us, it’s all over our industry. If you got this far reading my commentary, thanks. I appreciate it.


I was raised and bought my first house in Oklahoma, where the real estate is described according to the Public Land Survey System.

When I bought my place in Kentucky, where the “metes and bounds” method you describe is used, my mind was blown because my lot is described with distances in relation to a street and two alleys. (None of that latitude and longitude wizardry here, thank you very much) I sat at the closing table trying to figure out what happened if the dimensions of the street or alleys were altered. They did just incorporate by reference the previous transfers of said plot, so my “legal description” is just a ridiculous pair of sentences.


Ah, now I remember “metes & bounds”. Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky were all top-tier analyst positions for seasoned employees. I generally got kicked around among the bottom-tier (simplest) states that used drawn plats instead of abstracts.
I got out in March of 2008, because I had the feeling something bad was going to go down (surprise, surprise) in the real estate industry. Our division of the company lost over 50% of its employees over the following year.


Congratulations on having the sense to see the coming disaster.

I bought that first place in Oklahoma in June of 2008. (Talk about buying at the wrong time.) I’m nearly certain the title insurance on it was from First American. When digging through the paperwork to confirm that the legal description for the land on which my “old Kentucky home” sits was insane as I remember, I confirmed that the title insurance for it was First American. I’m probably a victim of this exposure, twice over.

As someone whose data was in one of the OPM breaches and has credit monitoring as result, I’m not even shocked. I understand why these entities need the data: to process a transaction, conduct a background investigation, whatever. I don’t understand why they feel the need to keep this data, though. Collect it, use it, flush it.