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‘Volume’ of attempts of conveyancing scams is ‘incredible’, Conveyancing Association says

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  • 14/06/2024
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‘Volume’ of attempts of conveyancing scams is ‘incredible’, Conveyancing Association says
The “volume” of conveyancing scams is “incredible” and buyers should be aware of “potential red flags”, a trade body has said.

Lloyds Bank recently issued a warning around conveyancing scams, noting that they had risen by almost a third in the second half of last year compared to the prior period.

The average conveyancing scams could cost around £470,000 per victim, with some victims losing as much as £250,000.

Beth Rudolf (pictured), director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA), said that in light of the “ongoing threat of fraud”, it had updated its Cyber Fraud protocol, and it will be publishing it for free on its website.

She added that it would also be focusing on this in its CA meetings in York in September.

“The methods [of conveyancing scams] do not seem to have changed, but the sheer volume of attempts is incredible. Seller impersonation frauds, where a criminal looks for a vacant property with a sole owner and no mortgage and then produces fake ID, is the most terrifying, as they then ‘sell’ the property, leaving the real owner to try to sort it all out at HM Land Registry.

“You might recall the case of the Reverend Mike Hall, whose property was stolen in this way in Luton, and he finally got a court order to get it back but found he had people living in it and is now having to go through the process of evicting the people who thought they had genuinely rented the property as their home,” Rudolf said.

 

Buyers should watch out for ‘potential red flags’ for conveyancing scams

Rudolf said that buyers should watch out for “potential red flags” for conveyancing scams, such as a property not occupied by the seller, without a mortgage and there only being one registered owner.

Borrowers are urged to ask the estate agent whether they have digitally verified the identity of the seller, adding that digital ID verification makes this kind of fraud impossible. She noted that it had lowered fraud by 1000% in Norway when introduced.

She continued: “The other type of fraud is deposit redirection fraud. The fraudsters look out for anything to identify there will be a transfer of funds, so social media posts about progress in buying a property will trigger their interest.

“They will then either attempt to get into an individual’s, or their law firm’s, email system and set up a rule [that] identifies any email requesting money and forwards it to them. From there, they can send a fake email or message or call saying it is time to send in the money and provide the individual with the criminal’s bank details.”

Rudolf reiterated advice about not posting updates on social media. Borrowers should be wary of clicking on unexpected links, and when they instruct their conveyancer, they should make sure they receive the firm’s bank details by post.

“Conveyancers do not change their bank details, and if they do, they will keep both accounts open until those clients’, who have the old bank details, transaction has gone through. If clients receive any communication purporting to be from their conveyancer saying they have changed their bank details, this is fake, and they should therefore not send them money.

“Fraudsters have also worked out how to use fonts to set up email addresses that look like a conveyancer’s email address, for example, switching lower case ‘l’ for capital ‘I’ – so again clients should not be fooled simply because the email giving the new bank details appears to have come from a genuine account,” she added.

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