Conveyancing fraud is now believed to be the most common type of cybercrime in the legal sector and can result in unwary homebuyers losing tens of thousands of pounds. It is a particular issue for first time buyers, because they are likely to be less familiar with the conveyancing process and because they will normally be transferring a large amount of money from their own bank account to cover the deposit, Stamp Duty and other costs.
To avoid being caught out by a conveyancing scam, it is important to understand what to look out for and what steps to take to keep yourself and your money safe.
How conveyancing fraud works
The most common type of conveyancing fraud relies on the fact that so many people now choose to communicate with their conveyancing solicitor by email. This has many advantages as it is fast, convenient and allows you to easily deal with a solicitor anywhere in the country, but it does also create an opportunity for cybercriminals if you are not careful.
The scam starts with an email that appears to be from your solicitor, asking you to transfer the deposit for a home you are buying to a stated bank account. However, the email is a fake and the bank details are those of an account belonging to the fraudsters, not your solicitor.
The email appears to be from your solicitor, either because the cybercriminals have hacked into your solicitor’s email account or because they have “spoofed” their email address. Spoofing means the email appears to come from your solicitor’s email address when in fact it has come from an email account controlled by the scammer.
If you fall for the scam and pay the money into the criminals account, they will normally move it quickly to a different account, potentially abroad. This means that the money often cannot be recovered once the fraud has been identified, leaving the victim significantly out of pocket.
How to protect yourself against conveyancing email scams
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against the risk of conveyancing fraud:
- Get your conveyancing solicitors’ bank details in person or over the phone when you first agree to use them.
- If you do get an email asking you to transfer money to a different account, confirm this with your solicitor in person or over the phone.
- Before sending the full amount, send £1 first as a test and make sure your solicitors have received this before sending the full amount.
- Once you have transferred funds, call your solicitor to check that they have been received.
- If you believe you have been the victim of a conveyancing scam, contact your solicitor and your bank immediately. The faster you can raise the alarm, the more chance there is of you getting your money back.
Choose a conveyancing team that protects your interests
Bird & Co Solicitors is a long-established law firm offering conveyancing services for properties across England and Wales from our 3 offices in the East Midlands. With accreditation from the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme, you can be assured that we offer the highest standards of conveyancing. Our service is completely secure, offering safe, reliable conveyancing that protects your interests.
To find out more about our conveyancing services, call us today on 01476 591711 or use our contact page to find details of your nearest office.