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Conveyancing scams up by almost a third with potential £47,000 bill

Conveyancing scams up by almost a third with potential £47,000 bill
Anna Sagar
Written By:
Anna Sagar
Posted:
14/06/2024
Updated:
14/06/2024

Homebuyers are increasingly being targeted by criminals hacking emails to exploit the conveyancing process, with such cases up by nearly a third, a bank has said.

According to Lloyds Bank, which covers customers of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, the proportion of conveyancing scam reports from customers have gone up by 29% in the second half of last year (July to December) compared to the prior half (January to June).

The analysis found that while the overall number of cases was lower than for other types of fraud, the average amount stolen was at its highest, coming to £47,000 per victim.

Lloyds Bank said that there had been several cases of conveyancing scams where victims have lost more than £250,000.

In nearly half of cases, victims were under the age of 39, which the lender said meant that first-time buyers were at particular risk of conveyancing schemes. This is also due to this group not having as much experience of the homebuying process.

Lloyds Bank said that conveyancing scams typically start when the solicitor or homebuyer has their email account hacked. The email account is then monitored to check for the opportune moment to send false payment details.

The fraudster can send emails from the solicitor’s email account, or they can create a spoof account that can look similar.

How to protect yourself

The firm said that the best ways to protect yourself from conveyancing scams include verifying payment instructions, being wary of sudden changes, and securing email accounts with strong passwords and two-factor authentication, along with signing out of accounts on shared devices and avoiding public or unprotected WiFi connections.

Lloyds Bank said that borrowers should avoid posting about their property purchase online until they have keys in hand, and they should call and speak to their solicitor on a trusted number.

They should also heed warnings from the bank about payments – for instance, in cases where the name of the account doesn’t match the details of the receiving account – and to try not to feel pressurised to make a payment at short notice.

Lloyds Bank said that as fraudsters are familiar with the email chain, the emails will look extremely similar, using the same names, logos and signatures.

Fraudsters can even call the victim and impersonate the solicitors, reinforcing the urgency of making the payment, and tricking the homebuyer into sending money to a bank account controlled by the criminals.

Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Buying a new home is one of the most exciting moments many of us will ever experience. But it can also be incredibly stressful, given the amount of money involved, and the need to navigate a complex legal process.

“While the financial consequences of these scams are severe, the emotional toll can be even greater. The fraud often leads to the collapse of a property transaction, with a devastating long-term impact on those involved.

“Fraudsters prey on weaknesses in email security and exploit a conveyancing process that most people may only experience a handful of times in their lives. It’s vital that solicitors also grasp the importance of educating their clients on the risk of this type of scam and make a point of sharing payment details in person at the start of the homebuying process.”

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