Recent reports in the National Press state that the scale of property fraud has hit record levels with over £100 million lost to property fraudsters in just the last 6 months in England and Wales, as ever increasing complex schemes have been used to defraud people moving house, their Lenders and their Solicitors.
Criminals are using their computer hacking skills to intercept e-mails and fool Solicitors and their clients into transferring large sums of money into fake accounts. Fraudsters also pose as legitimate owners of property. In some cases fraudsters have used private correspondence sent to an address to take on the owner’s identity before carrying out a sale with an unsuspected buyer and making off with the proceeds.
Unsuspecting Solicitors and people undertaking property transactions have been caught out. However there a number of actions you can take (or ensure your Solicitor takes) to ensure any risk is kept to a minimum including:
1. at UTK, we will always try and meet our Clients face to face and verify their identity and seek evidence of proof of address. By seeing the original documents of identity, including photographic evidence such as a passport, we can then compare this to the Client in front of us.
2. if you have provided your Bank details by e-mail, these should be verified by telephone. Likewise we will never advise any of our Clients of a change in our bank details via e-mail. If you are at all suspicious as to whether any e-mail has come from your Solicitor, you should always telephone to check. It is better to be safe than sorry!
3. undertaking a number of searches both on the internet and also via the Law Society and other Websites to check the identity of other Solicitors we are dealing with, as some fraudsters go as far as setting up bogus law firms in order to entice other law firms to send money to them on behalf of their Clients
4. undertaking regular checks of the internet and Law Society websites to ensure no fraudsters are trying to copy our identity or the identity of any of our individual Solicitors.
We do everything we can in order to protect both ourselves and our Clients and as members of the Law Society Quality Conveyancing Scheme, we keep up to date with all of the latest professional practices to reduce this risk as much as possible.
For further information please contact our Solicitors in our Property Department on (01267) 237441.