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Homebuyer loses £74,000 after conveyancer falls victim to cyber fraud

  • 24/01/2017
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A first-time buyer has been swindled out of £74,000 after a fraudster posing as his conveyancer intercepted an email exchange and made off with the cash.

Howard Mollett, 40, argued that his solicitors, Sethi Partnership, based in west London, failed to inform him on the risk of cyber fraud until the day he found out he had fallen victim to a scam, the Telegraph reported.

In August of last year, Mollett transferred a down payment of just over £32,500 into Sethi’s HSBC bank account for a one-bed flat in Brixton which cost £310,000, leaving Mollett with an outstanding balance of £119,837 to be paid to the solicitors.

Sethi requested that Mollett pay these funds into its account before completion on 5 October. That week, the buyer attempted to make a transfer of £45,000 while on a business trip in the US, but was notified by his bank that the transfer could take up to three days to clear.

His daily transfer limit of £50,000 meant he could not pay off the balance all at once, so he emailed Sethi Partnership to find out how to proceed.

The fraudsters then chose their moment to swoop in on the first-time buyer by posing as Sethi and emailing Mollett to request that the remaining funds be paid into a Yorkshire Building Society account, as it was experiencing problems with its HSBC account.

Mollett transferred £42,000 into the account on 30 October and then £25,000 the following day. Another email on Sunday was sent by the online fraudster requesting that the last £7,837 be paid into a Natwest account as it was below £10,000.

Just two days later, the homebuyer was told by the genuine Seth Partnership that it had only received the initial £45,000 payment.

The alert subsequently sent out by Sethi Partnership on the day of the scam said it would not accept responsibility if a customer transferred money into an incorrect bank account.

Mollett has since managed to recover the final payment sent to Natwest but is still out of pocket by £67,000. Following the fraud, Mollett and his family were forced to scrape their savings together so the property purchase could be completed.

According to the Telegraph, Mollett’s case is currently being investigated by the firm, the police and the banks.

Sethi Partnership has been approached for comment.

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