Beware Don't be a victim of Deposit Fraud
Homebuyers are being warned about a spike in scams that have seen victims defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Law Society of England and Wales has joined forces with the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), which is housed within the National Crime Agency, and Action Fraud, to warn home buyers of the risk of payment diversion fraud.
Criminals are actively targeting property purchases, with the aim of tricking people into transferring over their deposit funds and/or the balance of purchase monies to them. "The frauds almost always involve the criminals pretending to be the victim’s lawyer to con them into diverting their payment to an account the criminal's control" said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.
“These frauds can involve huge sums of money and have a devastating lifelong impact on the home buyer and their personal finances. Solicitors and their clients can all play a part in making such crimes more difficult for the criminals.” Jon Shilland, fraud threat lead at the NECC, said “Payment diversion fraud is increasing and it is vital to be alive to the threat as criminals are targeting home-buyers due to the scale of the transactions. “Whenever a client is making a payment to their solicitor for a house purchase, they should be highly suspicious of any change in account details or new instructions"
If you have had dealings with Ocean property lawyers by email you may have noticed this permanent message within their signatures - PLEASE NOTE that conveyancing transactions carry a significant risk of cyber fraud and we take this very seriously indeed. A common fraud involves incorrect bank details being emailed to clients. We will NEVER change our bank details via email. For your protection, we ask you please to ring us to check our account details before sending us money. But let's look at combating the criminals in more detail.
How to protect yourself from becoming a victim of conveyancing fraud
Get bank details from your law firm either in person or over the phone at the start of the conveyancing process and agree on a robust mechanism by which any legitimate changes in bank details would occur, such as confirming them in person. Ask them to confirm the details by post if you’ve obtained them in person or over the phone.
Law firms rarely change their bank details. If you receive an email or telephone call stating a change in the bank details, question its authenticity. Always check the bank details directly with your lawyer or someone senior at the firm by calling them on their published telephone number.
Do not feel pressured into changing any details before you have spoken to someone from your law firm/conveyancers. Check the email address carefully and if in doubt use a trusted phone number to check the information is correct, not the one given in the email demanding payment.
Set strong and separate passwords for your accounts, and make sure that you have anti-virus software installed on your devices; these frauds usually rely on email accounts being compromised. To create a strong password, simply choose three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be added if required.
Avoid posting on social media about buying/selling your house or getting a mortgage. Fraudsters may get hold of this information and, knowing the next step is a large financial transaction, seek to target you.
Avoid using public or unprotected Wi-Fi systems to check emails when you are buying a house. Fraudsters can easily hack into vulnerable Wi-Fi systems.
If you are making a payment to an account for the first time, transfer a small sum first and then check with the law firm using known contact details that the payment has been received.
If you have any doubt about the transaction then do not transfer your money until you are satisfied it is correct; can you afford to lose your entire deposit or the entire purchase money?
If you suspect you have been the victim of conveyancing fraud you should immediately - contact your bank to advise them of the fraudulent activity, asking them to contact the receiving bank to freeze the funds. Alert your lawyer; it may be that they are being targeted by criminals, who may pose a risk to other customers. Contact Action Fraud; report suspected fraud to Action Fraud through - click here actionfraud.police.uk - reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime or by calling 0300 123 2040
Mon 08 Nov 2021