How to protect yourself against conveyancing scams?
Numerous scams have recently been reported in the press in relation to the conveyancing process. Clients can become victims if communications between them and their solicitors are intercepted by scammers. The Law Society has reported more and more cases of instances where victims have been defrauded of thousands of pounds.
How do the scams work?
The scammers gather information about the property transaction, then right before exchange or completion they send fake emails. These emails look like they were sent by their solicitor and ask for the balance of funds for the property transaction to be sent to an alternative bank account. Scammers typically target individuals who are purchasing properties without mortgage funding and trick them into sending the deposit or the balance of funds to their account. The Law Society together with the National Economic Crime Centre and Action Fraud are issuing warnings of the risk of payment diversion fraud.
A homebuyer was tricked, using the above method, into paying £640,000 to an alternative bank account. The bank details were provided to him on headed paper identical to the one used by his solicitors. The actual solicitor later informed the client that the funds were not requested by the firm and that he has been scammed. Unfortunately, the money was not recovered and as a result the homebuyer lost all his savings and the property he was trying to purchase.
How to protect yourself from conveyancing scams when purchasing?
The Law Society has issued the following tips so you can avoid becoming a victim of scammers.
- Whenever you receive an email from your solicitor requesting a transfer of money or for your bank account details, you should call your solicitor to confirm the request has come from them. If the bank details provided in the email are different from the ones provided in the client care letter (or any other secure communication between you and your solicitors) then you should confirm the changes over the phone. This should always be a red flag as law firms rarely change their bank details.
- You should double check that the sender’s email address is correct. This will usually be incorrect but as scammers find new ways to hack into emails or create new ones resembling the law firm’s you should still contact your solicitors to confirm if they requested the payment if you are even slightly unsure.
In addition to the above, we would recommend that you always use a secure and private internet connection when transferring funds to your solicitor.
If you receive an email from anyone at GoodyBurrett requesting your bank details or requesting monies, always phone our office immediately to confirm the details before making payment. Please be on notice that it is a policy of GoodyBurrett not to send or accept bank details via email.