Vale & West Chartered Accountants Blog

Do your clients know how to spot the signs of conveyancing fraud?

A regulator has warned the legal sector to once again be on the lookout for conveyancing fraud after a first-time-buyer lost £67,000 to fraudsters.

Conveyancing fraud, also known as ‘Friday afternoon fraud’, involves a criminal hacking into the email system of either a solicitor or a client and intercepting emails relating to a house purchase.

The fraudster will then wait for the exact moment to ‘spoof’ an email purporting to be from the solicitor letting the client know where to send the house purchase monies.

By the time the fraud has been alerted to the authorities, it is usually much too late to do anything about it.

This is exactly what happened in the case of first-time-buyer Howard Mollett.

According to Action Fraud, the UK’s anti-fraud body, Mr Mollett was communicating with his solicitor by email from the USA, before being intercepted by fraudsters.

After letting his solicitor know that he had encountered a problem while attempting to make the payment, it had emerged that a fraudster had intercepted the email chain and sent him an email that requested that he send the money to an alternative account.

It later emerged that the charity worker had unknowingly sent some £74,000 to fraudsters.

Commenting on the case, Action Fraud said conveyancers should always make clients aware of ‘Friday afternoon fraud’ and how to spot the signs of fraud taking place.

Action Fraud added: “Victims should contact their bank as soon as they become aware that they’ve been tricked and ask them to contact the receiving bank and freeze the account.”

How to avoid conveyancing fraud: a guide for clients (From Action Fraud)

  • Get bank details from your solicitor either in person or over the phone at the start of the conveyancing process. Ask them to confirm the details by post.
  • Always check the bank details and do not feel pressured into changing any details. If you receive an email stating a change in the bank details don’t be afraid to question its authenticity. Check the email address carefully and if in doubt use a trusted phone number to check the information is correct.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi systems to check emails when house purchases are being made. Fraudsters can easily hack into vulnerable Wi-Fi systems.
  • Avoid posting on social media about buying/selling your house or getting a mortgage. Fraudsters may get hold of this information and know the next step is a large financial transaction.
  • Make sure you have strong passwords for your accounts and have anti-virus software installed on your devices. To create a strong password, simply choose three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed.
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