Conveyancing Fraud – Everything
You Need to Know

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IN THIS BLOG

When you buy or sell a property, significant sums of money are transferred from one party to another. Combined with the time pressures of conveyancing, this makes conveyancing fraud an attractive and profitable method for scammers to pocket your deposit with very little recourse. We take the security of your matter with us extremely seriously. Conveyancing theft, or conveyancing fraud, is the most common cyber crime in the legal industry which is why we have put stringent safeguards in place to ensure the security of your transaction as much as we possibly can.

A truly secure sale or purchase requires a keen eye on your part, too. Knowing what to look for is half the battle. Whether you’re a first time buyer, or if a few years have passed since your last transaction and need to brush up on your cyber security, we want you to be fully aware of any possible red flags throughout your transaction.

If at any point during your transaction, something doesn’t feel right, end any conversations immediately and call us on 01749 345 756, or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm, or call 999 for urgent matters.

Who is at Risk of Conveyancing Fraud?

First Time Buyers

As a first time buyer, you can protect yourself by knowing the warning signs that may appear throughout a transaction. Practicing good financial literacy and staying alert to fraud throughout. As your solicitor, we would always prefer that you call us to double check something as many times as you need rather than fall for property fraud and lose the deposit you’ve been saving up for for years.

Landlords, Empty Properties & Properties Without a Mortgage

If you fall into any of these categories, you can protect yourself from Property Fraud by setting up an alert with the Land Registry’s Property Alert system. The system will alert you to any major activity being taken against the property such as an application for a change of title or a new mortgage being taken out against the property.

You can set these alerts up for up to 10 properties and do not need to own the property yourself to set up alerts, for example you can set up alerts against an elderly family member’s property.

Everyone

If you are entering into a property transaction, you are at risk of being targeted for conveyancing or property fraud, so be sure to stay alert to the warning signs.

Signs of Conveyancing Fraud

On The Listing Sites

Too Good to be True

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  If a property is listed on a property site and it’s much cheaper than other properties in the same area, this should be a red flag. There are legitimate reasons why a property might be listed very cheaply. It could be being sold via auction, in which case the price listed will be the starting bidding price and therefore will be much cheaper. However, if there is no obvious reason why the property is cheaper than others in the area, this could be a warning sign of fraud.

At the Viewing

A Viewing Fee

Whilst a reservation fee is normal once your offer has been accepted on a property, it’s not normal to have to pay a deposit for a viewing.

Suspicious Mistakes

If, for example, you arrive at the viewing and the agent apologises for forgetting the keys to the property so you can’t access the inside of the property, this is a red flag. Whilst accidents do happen, they should offer to allow you to view the property again soon when they do have the keys and can access the property. If the property is legitimately for sale, you will be able to view the property inside and out.

A High Reservation Fee

The reservation fee will usually be between £500 and £1,000, if they ask for a fee any higher than this then it’s a sign to walk away.

Asking for Bank Details Via Email

If they ask for your bank details via email, this is a sign to walk away. Under no circumstances should you provide your bank details over email.

Throughout the Legal Process

Pushing for Fees

Most sellers and buyers alike all want a quick sale/purchase, but if the other side’s solicitors or agents are being suspiciously pushy for fees, this is a sign to walk away from the transaction.

Change of Bank Details

If you receive an email explaining that your solicitors bank details have changed, immediately call your solicitor from the number listed on their website. Do not follow any links from their emails, search for their website from your browser by typing their firm name into Google. If they explain that their bank details haven’t changed, your emails could have been intercepted by a scammer. Your solicitor will be able to explain the next appropriate steps, but we would recommend calling your bank and explaining that you have been targeted for fraud. They will be able to put additional securities in place to keep you and your money safe.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Do not talk about your transaction on social media
  • Never send your bank details to anyone via email
  • If you receive a suspicious phone call from anyone claiming to be from a company, hang up, Google the company and contact them directly to confirm if it was them calling you
  • Stay alert throughout your transaction.

How We Protect You

  • We are a firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • We run background checks on the buyer/seller’s solicitor firm to make sure they are a legitimate firm
  • We run background checks on all of our employees before they join the firm, regardless of which department they’re working in
  • Although we will always aim for a speedy transaction, we will never pressure you into making a payment or ask you to send your money to multiple bank accounts
  • We hold the Cyber Essentials accreditation, giving you peace of mind that we are working to strict protection policies

Conveyancing Fraud Facts and Stats

  • 98% of credit card fraud victims are reimbursed fully, but only 40% of bank transfer victims see any money reimbursed at all
  • Property fraud will usually result in a complete loss of life savings and will have to start again
  • In 2019, bank transfer fraud increased by 18%, the equivalent of £31m

Who to Call

Your Solicitor

You should call your solicitor from the number on their website if:

  • You are unsure if any communication from them is legitimate
  • You feel suspicious about any activity throughout your transaction
  • You have any questions about your transaction at all
  • You have received what you think is a fraudulent email or phone call
  • You have any concerns at all

Your Bank

You should call your bank if:

  • You have received what you think is a fraudulent email or phone call
  • You want to add additional protections to your transaction
  • You are concerned at all

Action Fraud

You should call Action Fraud if you have any concerns about fraud impacting your transaction. Their lines are open Monday – Friday 8am to 8pm on 0300 123 2040.

999

If you think you’re in immediate risk of fraud, call 999 right away.