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Property Payment Diversion Fraud – How To Protect Yourself.

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Criminals have always been attracted by the large sums of money involved in property transactions.

Sometimes described as ‘Friday afternoon fraud’, conveyancers and their clients have often been targeted during these busy periods, as perpetuators know this is typically a time for a higher volume of property transactions to take place.

The Covid pandemic increased this vulnerability further as conveyancers have been ‘swamped’ due to stamp duty holidays making for a very busy property market. This increase in volume of transactions has resulted in an increase in attempted payment diversion fraud:

“In the year to September 2021 there have been 4,600 cases reported to Action Fraud, with individual losses averaging around £30,000.”
John Shilland, fraud threat lead at the NECC, said:

“Payment diversion fraud is increasing and it is vital that people are alive to the threat. Small and medium sized businesses are most at risk due to less comprehensive IT security, but these criminals will also target home-buyers due to the scale of the transactions.”

What is payment diversion fraud? 

Despite preventative measures, some clients still get caught out by clever criminals who are continually coming up with new ways to intercept funds. This usually involves the perpetrators impersonating individuals or businesses to trick the victim into paying their money directly to the fraudulent party.

In a recent case study, one victim of Conveyancing fraud lost £640,000. Criminals intercepted email correspondence and subsequently used a spoof email account to ask for payment of the correct amount on the right day. Most of the money was not recovered, which had a devastating effect on the client.

How can I protect myself from falling victim to this kind of fraud?

  1. Choosing a reliable conveyancer with good credentials is essential. A good conveyancer will already have robust procedures in place to help protect their clients from all types of property fraud.
  2. It would be very unusual for a conveyancer’s bank details to change during a transaction. Check bank details carefully. And don’t be afraid to call your conveyancer before sending any money to double check the details. If in doubt, do not transfer any money.
  3. Why not send a test payment first? This way you can call your conveyancer to check the ‘token’ amount has been safely received before sending a larger payment.
  4. Watch out for fake emails. These are becoming more common place so luckily people are more wary. But beware as criminals are finding more inventive ways of tricking people, including texts messages, emails and fake telephone calls. If you’re unsure, call your conveyancer back yourself or arrange a visit in person.
  5. Set robust passwords and make sure your anti-virus protection is up-to-date.
  6. Be private. Posting details about your house move on social media could make you a target for fraudsters.

If you would like to read more about payment diversion fraud, you can find more information here

Lydia Eeles

Posted:

Lydia Eeles

Paralegal

Lydia has recently taken up her role as Paralegal in the Residential Conveyancing Team at our Wellingborough Office. She assists in sales, purchases, transfers of equity and re-mortgages and works hard to ensure the conveyancing process runs as quickly and smoothly as possible. Lydia is…