What is it?
Criminals actively target those in the process of purchasing properties by impersonating legal professionals, with the aim of tricking you into transferring/diverting house purchase deposits and/or the balance of purchase monies to an account that they control.
In the majority of cases, the criminals have compromised the emails accounts of the legal professionals and the subsequent emails that you receive are as a result. The spoofed emails can be just the start. You may also receive text messages or phone calls. While buying a new home can be exciting, posting on social media about a property purchase could also make you a target for criminals.
Criminals gather information about you for weeks or months for their scams, building a picture to help them appear legitimate. Convincing fake invoices and email addresses that are slightly different to those that are genuine are also tactics used by criminals to trick homebuyers.
Conveyancing scams can have a devastating impact, with some losing their deposits and, in some cases, causing the purchase of their home to fall through.
How to spot a Conveyancing Scam:
- You are contacted by someone who claims to be your lawyer or solicitor advising you that the sort code and account number where you need to pay your deposit has been changed.
- You are contacted by your lawyer or solicitor on a different email address to the one you usually communicate through. You may even receive a call from someone purporting to represent your firm requesting a payment.
- You are put under pressure to make a payment urgently or risk your property purchase falling through.
Examples of A CONVEYANCING SCAM
Posting on social media about a property purchase
Having saved up for years, Chloe was thrilled when she had an offer accepted on her dream property. The legal proceedings started swiftly, and she was in regular contact with her solicitor over the phone and by email. As the date got closer for her to finalise her purchase, Chloe excitedly let all of her friends on social media know that she was moving to a new house and that she couldn’t wait to move in.
Shortly after, Chloe received an email from what she thought was her solicitor requesting payment of the deposit, with the bank details provided. Keen not to delay any part of the process, Chloe logged into her online banking and made the full payment of her deposit. A couple of days later she called her solicitor to get an update and check that they had received the funds that they’d requested. It was a this point that the solicitor advised Chloe that they’d never sent her an email requesting payment or changed their bank details. When she checked the original email, she noticed a small difference in the address. Chloe realised she had been the victim of a scam.
Unprotected Wi-Fi system
Raj was travelling for work when the purchase of his new house was due to go through. To keep on top of things relating to moving he would respond to emails whilst on-the-go, using his laptop on trains and in cafes, often using public Wi-Fi networks.
Things were progressing well when he received an email from the solicitor’s firm advising him of a change of bank account details and a request for payment. He made the transfer and continued with his journey. When Raj got home he called his solicitor to check the funds had gone through. When his solicitor advised Raj that they hadn’t emailed him or changed bank details he realised he’d fallen for a scam.
*Case studies are based on insights from partners
If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card.
Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
For more information about conveyancing scams or payment diversion fraud visit the Action Fraud website here.