JP Goldman – Conveyancing Fraud: How to spot and protect yourself from scammers

As home prices continue to soar, fraudsters are deploying sophisticated impersonation tactics to trick unsuspecting property buyers and owners. This year, statistics from the Office of National Statistics reveal that property fraud is likely to hit record levels in 2022. The coronavirus pandemic cleared the way for communication to take place virtually— via phone, email and virtual meetings, making it easier than ever for fraudsters to exploit vulnerabilities and impersonate a solicitor, banker, real estate agent or other third party. As conveyancing solicitors and real estate specialists, we are consistently on the lookout for ways to protect our clients from conveyancing fraud.

Most common forms of conveyancing fraud start with a fraudster impersonating a key player in the transaction, whether it’s a buyer, solicitor, or rental agent. It’s important to note that scammers can intercept phone calls and redirect postal communication. Email also poses an increasing threat, with 48% of all 2021 SRA scam alerts related to fraudulent email activity.

Typical scams include a fraudster hacking into the email account of a solicitor, asking you (the buyer) to transfer money to a certain bank account. Another common version of conveyancing fraud entails scammers posing as real estate agents, where a scammer advertises a rental property, asking renters to pay a holding deposit (which turns out to be a scam).

In yet another common scam, fraudsters impersonating your conveyancer send an email to a prospective buyer, requesting a deposit to be paid for the property purchase with bank details. The email impersonates your conveyancing solicitor, but ultimately it’s a fraudster trying to scam the buyer client.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from the most common types of conveyancing fraud:

  1. Be careful with emails: Check emails carefully for suspicious links, inspect the sender’s email address and look for any spelling and grammar mistakes. If you’re in doubt, contact your solicitor to confirm the information contained in an email.
  2. Ask questions: Make sure you can ascertain the seller’s profile. Ask questions and confirm the legal identity of the seller. Do not accept urgent instructions or unusual requests at face value.
  3. Do not hastily transfer money to conveyancing solicitors or any other third party: Ask your property solicitor to provide you with instructions and bank details over the phone. Do not allow anyone purporting to be a conveyancing solicitor, banker or otherwise to sway you into sending money at an alternative address.
  4. Call your conveyancing solicitor: if you receive an email requesting you to send or transfer money, call your solicitor to confirm the instructions using the phone number displayed on our website.

JP Goldman is serious about protecting you from conveyancing fraud. We will not email you with a change of bank details. In fact, to help us protect you from fraud, you can check you have the correct bank details for us using the service on our website. Stay vigilant, remain alert and protect yourself from conveyancing fraud in 2022 and beyond.

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