A property purchase is one of the biggest financial commitments most people will make. And we need to know that our money is safe during the final transaction part of the conveyancing process. However, the risk of digital fraud has increased as more buyers and sellers use emails and online banking to seal the deal.
The most prominent happen where fraudsters hack into the email system of either the legal firm acting for the buyer or seller or the individuals themselves and trick the innocent party into transferring perhaps thousands of pounds into the fraudster’s own bank account.
Such frauds have been dubbed “Friday afternoon frauds” because the majority occur on that day, simply because of the amount of transactions completed in time for the weekend. It also gives the scammers a couple of days to cover their tracks.
Identity fraud is another problem in property sales, where a seller may not be who he or she claims or a fake legal firm fools a genuine buyer. With millions of pounds exchanged daily in property deals across the UK, it’s no surprise that this market would be an attractive one to thieves.
So how do you as a buyer or seller ensure you keep your information safe and secure and ensure you don’t fall victim to such a nasty crime? At Capital Conveyancing, our panel of solicitors and conveyancing firms are regulated by the Law Society through its Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
The SRA issues regular guidelines to its members on digital and IT security, encouraging solicitors to share information not only on actual frauds but on any attempts to infiltrate email systems in particular. Firms are expected to take the appropriate steps to protect their own systems and their clients’ information, and if a client loses money because of negligence on a solicitor’s part, the SRA may take action over a breach of its Code of Conduct.
Solicitors and conveyancers are also expected to confirm the identity of a seller and the legal entity representing them to ensure they are indeed who they say they are.
While you put trust in your legal representatives that they are doing all in their power to protect you, there are steps you can also take to give an added layer of protection. Email is a fantastic tool that aids communication and can speed up the conveyancing process, but digital fraudsters have the persistence, nous and will to infiltrate even the most secure of systems when large sums of money are at stake, so old-fashioned mail can be your shield in the first instance.
From the start of the conveyancing process, agree with your solicitors, in writing or by telephone the method by which your transaction will be settled financially. Treat any unexpected changes to these arrangements with suspicion and call your solicitor or conveyancer in person to discuss anything that seems untoward. Email contact is fine for general information exchanges, but do not commit any bank details to email and do not offer details of your account when unsolicited.
On the date you have agree to transfer funds, transfer only a token amount at first and call your legal representatives to confirm they have received that. Only then should you transfer the outstanding balance and again call as soon as is practicable to confirm receipt.
Remember that fraudsters who have taken the trouble to infiltrate an email system and communicate with you will use sophisticated language to convince you they are genuine. If you are unsure of anything in an email exchange, get offline immediately and get on the phone to a number you know is the correct one and confirm everything in person.
With the professional and friendly sales team at Capital Conveyancing available seven days a week, you can be assured of prompt attention in any enquiry. If you have received an email you’re concerned about and cannot get in touch with your solicitor or conveyancer, call our team immediately and they will help clarify any issue.
We place the highest priority on ensuring our clients’ information remains secure and confidential at all times. We also understand how the conveyancing process can be a stressful one and sometimes simply a word of reassurance that your case is being dealt with safely can offer peace of mind.
Whether you are a buyer or seller, Capital Conveyancing can provide a no-obligation quote for your conveyancing needs while our no-move, no-fee guarantee will ensure you are not out of pocket if, for some reason, your transaction does not complete. Click here for an instant quote.
Londoners are the house buyers most at risk of conveyancing fraud, according to new research from Barclays. The financial giant’s Digital Safety Index survey revealed that 13 percent of homebuyers in London are vulnerable to online swindlers who intercept emails from conveyancing solicitors and persuade the buyer to transfer thousands of pounds to the fraudsters instead.
This type of conveyancing fraud is often referred to as “Friday afternoon fraud” because this is the most popular time for transactions to complete while also giving the perpetrators the weekend to make off with their ill-gotten gains and cover their tracks.
The fraud generally involves cyber criminals hacking into the email system of the conveyancing firm or the client – and often both – sending false information that causes funds for the property purchase to be redirected to the criminals’ own bank account.
Barclays has launched its own £10 million advertising campaign to increase public awareness of this sort of digital fraud, encouraging people to be more vigilant about their online financial safety.
Chief executive of Barclays UK, Ashok Vaswani, said: “As a society, our confidence in using digital technology to shop, pay our bills and connect with others has grown faster than our knowledge of how to do so safely. This has created a ‘digital safety gap’ which is being exploited by criminals. I believe the need to fight fraud has now become a national resilience issue, and we all need to boost our digital safety levels in order to close the gap.”
London is the UK’s most targeted city by fraudsters, its sheer size and much greater population making it an obvious focus. Liverpool (10 percent), Birmingham (nine percent) and Bristol (eight percent) were the next cities most at risk of fraud, while the safest cities were Leeds (two percent) and Manchester (three percent).
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory arm of the Law Society, reported in December 2017 that email hacks caused £7m of client losses over the previous year. This type of fraud accounted for 75 percent of all cybercrimes reported to the SRA.
To combat the threat and minimise the risk posed to both legal firms and clients, the SRA has made online security for its members a priority and offers up-to-date advice on protecting email systems and client confidentiality.
All firms on Capital Conveyancing’s London panel of solicitors and conveyancing solicitors are accredited by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) and regulated by the SRA, giving clients the greater peace of mind that their digital security is in safe hands.
The business of buying and selling property is one fraught with risk. The buyer faces the possibility of being outbid by another buyer. They might end up spending many thousands of pounds on a house that’s got serious defects if they fail to get a structural survey done. Meanwhile, the seller could be left high and dry if they accept one offer but that buyer then withdraws at the last minute.
All of those possibilities are clear to both parties before embarking on any sale deal. However, another, more worrying risk is the one hovering in cyberspace – digital fraud that diverts the funds from the buyer or to the seller by hacking into the email accounts of either the conveyancing firm or the individuals involved, and sometimes both.
In the UK property market, millions of pounds change hands every single day as sales are completed, making this area an enticing one for thieves looking for an easy mark.
In the year to December 2016, around £7 million was defrauded from individuals in the UK during the conveyancing process, a scam dubbed “Friday afternoon fraud” because of that day’s popularity as a completion date – and also because it gives the tricksters time to make off with their ill-gotten gains.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulating arm of the Law Society of England and Wales and the body to which all members of Capital Conveyancing’s London-wide panel of solicitors and conveyancing solicitors report.
In its December 2016 report, the SRA said three-quarters of the cyber crimes reported to it in the previous 12 months had been “Friday afternoon frauds” but also said the problem may be under-reported. A quarter of firms under the umbrella of the SRA have been targeted by fraudsters with one in 10 having money stolen from their clients.
While technology is helping to speed up the conveyancing process, a lack of digital knowledge and awareness of the extent to which fraudsters can penetrate an email system makes both buyers and sellers vulnerable to the scam. The SRA advises only confirming bank details in writing using the traditional postal system.
Conveyancing firms and solicitors are also more vigilant now in ensuring identity fraud is minimised, carrying out documentation checks to confirm that a seller or a seller’s solicitor is indeed who they say they are and entitled to sell a property.
The “digital safety gap” has been identified by Barclays in its Digital Safety Index survey, published this month. The research from the financial giant showed that fraud and cyber crimes now make up half of all recorded crime in the UK, but many people have no idea how to ensure they can keep their finances safe online.
In fact, the Barclays survey revealed that even the most highly educated individuals are no better at identifying digital threats than the rest of the population.
To combat this ignorance, Barclays is to set up digital safety teach-ins in branch to customers and to the businesses it serves.
Here at Capital Conveyancing, our clients’ security and confidentiality is our No. 1 priority. Our solicitors and conveyancers panel are regulated by the Law Society through the SRA (for solicitors) and the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) for conveyancers. We also offer a guaranteed fixed fee and the assurance that you won’t lose a penny if for some reason your transaction doesn’t complete.
Read more here on why using Capital Conveyancing can provide peace of mind for buyer and seller.
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