Scams that involve significant amounts of money during the conveyancing process are on the rise and something that buyers need to be aware of, especially if they are about the exchange and complete a property purchase.
With a backlog delaying house sales due to the frenetic market activity over the last year, it is the ideal environment for criminals to take advantage of house buyers impatient and eager to complete their sales.
There have been increasing reports of people reporting issues with money going missing at this crucial stage of the process, and buyers are being warned to be aware that any communication between you, your solicitor, and your estate agent could be intercepted.
We have a look at some tips to help you spot suspicious activity and avoid being targeted and scammed.
What to look out for?
Cybercriminals can mine for data to see if they can discover any property sale-related information, and then find ways to enter the conversation just before the point of completion.
In most cases, the buyer will receive an email that appears to have come from their solicitor, which requests the full amount of money for the purchase to be deposited into an alternative bank account.
It could be that the buyer is unaware the money has been paid into the wrong account until contact has been made with their solicitor again, which could be days, at which point, the scammer’s bank account has vanished.
On average, there are two successful scams of this nature each week, netting the scammers around £250,000.
How to protect yourself against conveyancing scams
You can protect yourself by taking some steps, such as by having an additional line of communication with your conveyancing solicitor for when your receive an email asking for more information, banking details, or requesting a transfer of funds. Contact the solicitor directly to confirm the email is genuine.
You should always double-check the ‘sent from’ email address. It may look genuine, but expanding it to show the actual email address will show if the ‘@companyname’ matches that of your solicitor’s website address or from confirmed genuine emails you have received.
Keep in mind that scammers may also have found ways to hack email accounts, so it is always wise to double-check by phone or in-person before any major decisions or transfers.
Always use a secure wireless connection when checking important emails or accessing banking apps for money transfers, and not free wifi in cafes, shops, or other public areas.
When you initially instruct a conveyancing solicitor, ask them to send you their bank details in the post. That way if you do receive any emails, you can check the details against the postal version. If you receive a request to change the firm’s bank account partway through the process, double-check with the solicitor direct.
Always double check instructions sent via email, even if they look legitimate. Call the solicitor’s firm and ask for information. For many people, the sums of money involved in buying a house are likely to be the largest sums of money they will have handled, so caution is always advised!
If you’re looking for conveyancing solicitors in Surrey, get in touch today.