Conveyancing fraud is on the rise and is now the most common type of cybercrime affecting the legal industry, with newspaper headlines stating shocking cases of people being robbed of their life savings.
According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), email hacks of conveyancing transactions equated to £7 million of client losses in 2016. On average, conveyancing fraud victims lose over £100,000 and as the fraud is not covered by the banks, the loss is shattering.
Conveyancing fraud typically involves a house buyer receiving an email requesting the transfer of a large sum of money, which is usually for the deposit on a house, allegedly from their conveyancer. Despite looking genuine and legitimate, the email has been sent from hackers and contains their bank account details instead of the solicitor’s.
Sometimes the hackers access a genuine email from a solicitor and alter the bank details to their own before forwarding it to the house buyer.
Whilst sophisticated hackers make it incredibly difficult to detect foul play, there are certain steps property buyers can take to help them stay protected from conveyancing fraud.
Keep anti-viruses and security software up-to-date on devices
With anti-virus and firewall software installed on devices, a hacker’s job is made considerably harder. In order to block authorised access tampering with your emails, it is vital that your firewall is properly configured and updated. An up-to-dated antivirus will help prevent, detect and remove malicious software, making it less likely conveyancer fraudsters can hack into your accounts.
Check bank details are correct with your solicitor
If you receive details about bank accounts electronically, take the precaution of contacting your solicitor directly, either by going into the office or by telephone, to ensure the bank details are correct.
Avoid sending your own bank details electronically
Rather than sending your own bank details via email, inform your solicitor of them, either by telephone or going into the office. This way, if your email account has been hacked, the fraudsters won’t get access to your bank details.
Transfer a small amount and check the solicitor has received it
Rather than ploughing ahead and transferring the full deposit, transfer a small amount, like £1 to your solicitor’s account and then call them to check they have received it. Only when the transaction has been confirmed should you transfer the full amount.
Avoid using social media to discuss your house purchase
Fraudsters use social media to gain information about their victims, including conveyancing criminals. If you shout about the sale of your home and your new property purchase on social media, you are inviting fraudsters to learn about your house buying activities, which they may use as a platform for the fraud.
Wait until the funds have gone through and the transaction has been completed, before you discus your new home on social media.
If you do suspect any fraudulent activity, contact your solicitor straight away, as the sooner you act, the less damage these sophisticated cybercriminals can cause.
Article written and contributed by North Yorkshire Law
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances, and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to North Yorkshire Law directly.
Published on 10th July 2018