Scams involving considerable sums of money during the conveyancing process are something you should always bear in mind, particularly if you are about to exchange and complete your property purchase. Increasing numbers of people are reporting issues with money going missing at this crucial stage of the process and you should be aware that communication between you and your solicitor and estate agent could be intercepted. We at Online Conveyancing Solicitors take these matters very seriously and have put together a handy guide which we hope will be useful to our clients and the general public.
What to look out for?
Certain criminal individuals will mine data to see if they can find anything relating to a property purchase or sale, they then jump into the conversation at the point of completion, or just before. Typically, in the vast majority of cases, an email will be sent looking as though it comes from your solicitor, asking you to pay the full amount into an alternative bank account. You might not even realise you’ve paid the money to the wrong place until you make contact again with your solicitor. This could be several days, by which time there is little trace of the scammers bank account.
On average, there are two successful scams of this nature each week netting the scammers around £250,000. Newlyweds Sarah and Richie lost their deposit they’d been saving years for because the scammers’ bank account was unidentifiable and held overseas. In another case reported by The Telegraph highlighting this scam, a couple lost £48,500 although they eventually received compensation from their conveyancing solicitors but had to wait 8 months for it.
How to protect yourself against conveyancing scams
One way you can protect yourself is that any time you receive an email requesting extra information, or bank account information asking you to transfer money, make sure you have an additional line of communication with your conveyancing solicitor and/or estate agent. Contact them directly to check the details you have received are correct.
Another way is to double check the “sent from” email address. Often, this will be incorrect, even if everything else looks fine. Check that the @ matches the solicitor’s website address, or from previous emails from the firm. Be aware that scammers have also developed alternative ways to hack email accounts, so always double check.
This is Money has suggested you should, without exception, use a secure wireless connection, and not somewhere such as a public restaurant or café, when checking important emails and transferring large sums of money.
The Telegraph suggests when you initially instruct a conveyancing solicitor; you 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 part way through the process, double check with the solicitor direct. Do not follow instructions sent via email, even if it looks legitimate. Always call the firm and ask for information. For most people, this is the largest amount of money they will ever spend, so a cautious approach is strongly advised.
All of our London Conveyancing Solicitors are highly experienced in handling and advising on all property conveyancing matters or if you’re looking for conveyancing jobs check out propertyjobs.legal. Talk to us direct about how we can help you with your next property move.