Man loses £67,000 after fraudsters hack into his email to divert property purchase payments
5 Jul 2019 11:33 AM
House buyers are being warned to be on their guard when purchasing new properties.
The warning comes as a charity worker buying his first home had £67,000 stolen after fraudsters hacked into emails sent between him and his solicitor.
Conveyancing fraud is committed when criminals hack into the email chains between sellers and buyers and their solicitors and estate agents.
Waiting for the right time (usually on the day of sale completion) fraudsters send a spoofed or mimicked email informing the parties that bank account details have changed at the last minute and that money should be put into a different account.
The conveyancing process is particularly at risk because of the frequency of one-off and sizeable transactions. This type of fraud is often referred to as ‘Friday afternoon fraud’ as the majority of completions take place on a Friday.
First-time buyer, Howard Mollett, encountered problems whilst making a down payment on his new property. He emailed his solicitors from the US, where he was working, to make them aware.
Unknown to Mr Mollett, fraudsters intercepted the email and chain of correspondence with his solicitor.
When the time came to transfer funds, fraudsters sent him an email that looked like it was authentic and requested him to send the money to an alternative account.
In total he transferred £74,000 to fraudsters.
Mr Mollett is the latest in a long line of people who have fallen victim to this devastating, and difficult to spot, scam.
Luckily there are ways to protect it from happening to you.
- Get bank details from your solicitor either in person or over the phone at the start of the conveyancing process. Ask them to confirm the details by post.
- Always check the bank details and do not feel pressured into changing any details. If you receive an email stating a change in the bank details don’t be afraid to question its authenticity. Check the email address carefully and if in doubt use a trusted phone number to check the information is correct.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi systems to check emails when house purchases are being made. Fraudsters can easily hack into vulnerable Wi-Fi systems.
- Avoid posting on social media about buying/selling your house or getting a mortgage. Fraudsters may get hold of this information and know the next step is a large financial transaction.
- Make sure you have strong passwords for your accounts and have anti-virus installed on your devices. To create a strong password, simply choose three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed.
What to do if you’re affected
Victims should contact their bank as soon as they become aware that they’ve been tricked and ask them to contact the receiving bank and freeze the account.
To report fraud or cybercrime, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online reporting tool.