A first-time buyer was shocked to discover that he had become the victim of conveyancing cybercrime recently, when a fraudster stole £74,000 of the money he was due to pay towards his first home.
Howard Mollett, 40, was due to buy a flat in Brixton, London, when he became the latest victim of conveyancing cybercrime.
With his completion date fast approaching, Mr Mollett tried to send a payment to his solicitor from America, where he had been working, and found that the payment would take too long to process from abroad. He emailed his solicitors’ office to enquire how to proceed, and that’s when he received the first scam email.
How does conveyancing cybercrime work?
The most common type of conveyancing scam is when fraudsters manage to intercept emails between the solicitor and their client. They can gather personal information such as the client’s address and how much they owe, in order to impersonate their solicitor over the internet.
Mr Mollett received a similar email which he thought was from his solicitor, informing him that the company bank account wasn’t working and instructing him to deposit the value into an alternative account. He had not been warned about the potential dangers of cybercrime, so proceeded to transfer the remaining amount to the account that the fraudsters gave.
Of the £74,000 lost, Mr Mollett has only recovered £7,837 back, despite quickly contacting his solicitor and bank to inform them of the loss.
Can anything be done?
Unfortunately, banks are notoriously slow or incompetent when it comes to retrieving funds lost in a fraudulent transaction, so it is very much up to the customer to double check whether the account they are paying into is the correct one, but it’s not just the customer’s responsibility.
Mr Mollett had not been informed of the risks surrounding cybercrime, and had no idea that this was out of the ordinary, being a first time buyer, he had not been through the process of conveyancing before, so some responsibility must be placed on the solicitors’ firm.
The Solicitors' Regulation Authority (SRA) regularly warns firms to educate their customers and guide them through the process so as to avoid fraud like Mr Mollett experienced.
According to the SRA, there have been 2,625 reports of attempted conveyancing fraud, with 300 of them being successful, and the average amount lost for each customer is a painful £101,000 – too much to risk losing for the average homebuyer.
How does Fridaysmove tackle cybercrime?
Fridaysmove works hard to avoid cybercrime, and as well as following strict protocol, we urge our customers to help us tackle cybercrime by never giving out personal details over email.
Our team at Fridaysmove will never ask you to pay money into a different account, and will never ask you for your bank details over the phone or email, nor should any other professional soliciting firms.
If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 038 6446; we’d rather you asked us first if you’re worried about something than ended up like poor Mr Mollett!