As reports highlight the ongoing threat of online fraud (*) urgent guidance has now been issued to prevent those buying or selling property becoming victims of fraudulent activity which could result in the loss of substantial amounts of money and also the collapse of their sale or purchase.
The joint guidance, issued this week, from the National Crime Agency, the National Economic Crime Centre, Action Fraud and the Law Society provides practical steps that those in the process of buying or selling a property should take to prevent Payment Diversion Fraud - particularly when transferring money such as the deposit for the property or the final payment balance.
It highlights how fraudsters, using sophisticated methods to intercept emails between, for example, a buyer and their solicitors, manage to then set up fake emails and create headed paper which they then use to correspond with the parties concerned. They can then trick a buyer into thinking they are dealing with their solicitor and subsequently encourage them to make payments to accounts that the criminals control.
The guidance is supported by a case study which highlights the devastating lifelong impact of what is classed as ‘Conveyancing Fraud’ and how it robbed the victim of their equity and savings as well as their property purchase.
The overriding message is that, as with any online financial transaction, you should remain extremely vigilant. In the case of housing transactions, if payment details or instructions about the transfer of money are suddenly changed, phone (don’t email) your solicitor to check details. It could be that your emails are being diverted or intercepted by criminals. The guidance also suggests sending only a small amount to the account you’ve been told to transfer money to and then ring your solicitor to advise them to check that this has been received before making full payment. Any fraudulent activity should then be revealed. The overriding principle should be to check twice – pay once. At Reeds Rains we will always be happy to verify that a payment to us, or via us, is genuine
If you do suspect fraudulent activity, it’s also advised that you contact:
- Your bank to raise your concerns and ask them to contact the receiving bank to freeze the funds.
- Your solicitors - and estate agent – to alert them of the problem and prevent other clients being targeted.
- Action Fraud ( the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime) via their website or by calling 0300 123 2040.
The guidance re Payment Diversion Fraud: Conveyancing can be found on the Law Society website here
Reeds Rains also has a special section on its website which provides guidance and information on how to keep yourself safe while online but also when you buy a service or product from Reeds Rains.