Most of us know someone who has had their card details “skimmed” and then used fraudulently after a visit to a local ATM or online store. However, not many of us worry about cybercrime striking during property transactions; unfortunately, it’s a growing risk.
Cybercrime is the biggest security threat to property transactions
The Solicitors Regulation Authority reported £9.4 million in client money stolen in 2016 and £10.7 million in 2017, thanks to cybercrime.
A common example of this type of crime is a solicitor emailing their company bank account details for you to send you deposit of completion funds to. A criminal then intercepts this email and changes the bank details to their own. The email looks legitimate, but the bank information has been changed. You send the money, which then disappears.
This type of fraud comprises more than 70% of the cases reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Other examples include emails from fraudsters claiming to be working at your solicitor’s firm, as well as letters and phone calls that purport to be from your solicitor or conveyancer. These communications give you the bank details to send your money to and you do so in good faith without realising that you’ve just sent the money to a criminal.
Beware of Friday afternoons
These scams are known as Friday afternoon frauds because there’s often a high volume of transactions on Friday afternoons and people are also less vigilant then.
These Friday afternoon frauds are becoming more common and also more sophisticated so your solicitor should be aware of the risks and also have safeguards in place to make transactions safer for their clients.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself
When you receive an email, a phone call or a letter with your solicitor’s bank account details, call your solicitor to make sure that the numbers tally before sending any money. It’s worth the effort when there’s large sums of money involved.
Check everything before making any moves. Is the email the right email? Very often, fake emails use a different server or provider to the legitimate one. Is the phone number the usual one? Is the letter presented in the same format as usual? On the same paper? If there’s anything different, check with your solicitor before parting with a penny. Don’t feel pressured to send money immediately – it can wait until you’re 100% certain.
Make sure your anti-virus software and other security measures are up to date and working, both on your PC and your mobile devices. The more aware and cautious you are, the safer everyone in your purchase chain is.