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Organised crime unit issue conveyancing fraud advice

Friday 16 February 2018

The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Titan, are urging agents and solicitors to remain alert after a number of incidents have left buyers suffering significant financial losses.

Titan, who cover six police force areas in the North West, are warning against conveyancing scams which are being committed by criminals who are hacking into email chains between buyers and sellers, and their solicitors and estate agents.

Fraudsters wait, usually until the day of sale completion, then send a spoof email informing interested parties that funds should be paid into a different account and provide payment details of an account that is under their control.

In a recent incident, a buyer transferred nearly £200,000 to their conveyancing solicitor, who then received an email alleging to be from the vendor asking for the money to be moved to an account with different details to the ones they already held. The funds were duly transferred, only for the solicitor to learn that this account was under the control of the fraudster.

In order to prevent similar offences and to protect against cyber crime, TITAN have set out the following advice:

  • Ensure all staff, not just your finance team, are aware of this form of fraudulent activity.
  • Have a system in place which allows staff to properly verify contact from the buyer and/or third party firms (such as a conveyancer or solicitor).
  • Always verify email payment changes with the individual or organisation directly, using contact information you have on file.
  • If you receive a call purportedly from the buyer asking to make changes to their payment information, always hang up and call them back using established contact details.
  • Always review requests to change ‘one off’ payment requests. Check for inconsistencies or grammatical errors, such as a misspelt company name or a slightly different email address.
  • Ensure computer systems are secure and that antivirus software is up to date.
  • Review password protocols and make sure those that are used are strong, as long as possible and contain a combination of letters as well as numbers and symbols.
  • Do not use the same password for more than one application. If one application is compromised others become immediately vulnerable. 

To help you safeguard against scams, our 45 minute online Fraud Awareness course looks at the primary motivators for fraud and covers how to identify when fraud is being committed.

For further advice on cyber security or to report an incident, visit Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040.