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Residential Conveyancing: Scams to be Aware of

Scams and fraud in residential conveyancing transactions are now a regular features in mainstream news. Associate solicitor and head of our Residential Property team, Manisha Bhula, explains what to watch out for.

An article on the BBC website earlier in November described one buyer who misdirected £300,000.00 into a fraudster’s account. Another article published in November this year on the Guardian website featured a couple who had also fallen victim to a conveyancing scam and had sent £137,500.00 to a fraudster’s account rather than their conveyancer.

How do the scams operate?

The scammers hack into emails featuring key words such as “purchase” and “deposit” using malware. The scammers then contact the client using an email address similar to the conveyancer’s own email address and ask for any payments to be sent to new or different bank account details. The purchaser then sends the requested funds to the account of the scammer rather than the correct details for the conveyancer.

How to protect yourself

Purchasing a property will usually be the biggest investment the average person makes during their lifetime. Property is expensive and the loss of a deposit or completion money is the sort of extremely stressful experience that no one wants to go through. It can be avoided, though, as long as you take steps to verify account details. Your conveyancer and/or solicitor will be aware of potential scams and should take additional steps to verify any account details you give.

We always stress in our letters of engagement, and in our terms and conditions of business that we will never tell you by email about a change of our bank account details. If you get an email telling you that your solicitor’s or conveyancer’s bank account details have changed, then treat that email with extreme suspicion and telephone the solicitor or conveyancer to check the position (using a number from correspondence you already have or the website, and not from the email)

Steps we suggest you take to protect yourself from fraudsters include:

  • Not feeling pressured to send money as quickly as possible. Take your time, call a previously used number or one from the solicitor’s website and ask to speak with their accounts team or your conveyancer to confirm payment details.
  • Checking any suspicious emails against ones previously received from your conveyancer. Common changes by fraudsters include the use of accents (e.g. á ë ą ę) or extra “.”, and generally poor grammar and spelling.
  • Avoid checking your emails on public wifi or hotspots – hackers are more easily able to access your private information via such systems.

For further information or legal advice, please contact a member of our leading Residential Property team.

This blog article was produced with support from Kayleigh Chapman.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.