Property Fraud Prevention

Buying a home can be a frustrating process. It’s no surprise, then, that when the end is finally in sight, you can’t wait to seal the deal by transferring your deposit or final balance to your legal representative. But, before you do, it’s important to stop and think carefully. More buyers in Hackney than ever before are falling victim to online fraud.

When purchasing a property, you spend a considerable amount of time liaising with your conveyancing team. So, it’s easy to see why you would believe that everything will be fine when transferring your money. Yet, payment diversion fraud has become increasingly common over recent years, and it’s something that every homebuyer in Hackney must be aware of.

An Overview Of Payment Diversion Fraud

The National Economic Crime Centre, Action Fraud, The National Crime Agency, and the Law Society have all recently issued guidance about the problem of payment diversion fraud to prospective purchasers nationwide.

As you might imagine from the name, payment diversion fraud involves criminals diverting payments that are made electronically to a bank account of their own, preventing them from going to the payment’s intended recipient – your solicitor.

While payment diversion fraud can affect any type of online financial transaction, it is especially common during home purchases due to the very high sums of money involved. When it occurs in this context, it is a form of Conveyancing Fraud, and typically involves the criminals diverting either the balance of your property’s purchase price or your deposit payment.

How Is Payment Diversion Fraud Carried Out?

Criminals can use sophisticated techniques to intercept the buyer’s online correspondence with their legal representative. Once they have accomplished this, they can then set up spoof letterheads and email accounts to trick the property buyer into thinking they’re dealing with their conveyancer directly. It’s easy for fraudsters to collect details regarding the property that is being purchased, including the parties involved with the transaction and the price, and they can then use that information to trick the buyer into making the payment to them instead of their legal team.

How Can I Avoid Becoming A Victim Of Payment Diversion Fraud?

It’s important to stay vigilant at all times when buying a home and adhere to the guidance that has recently been issued by The Law Society. It contains helpful advice like contacting your legal representative before you transfer any payment so you can check whether they requested it as well as double-checking the account information.

You should question any changes of instructions or payment details, especially if they were made at short notice, by calling your solicitor. You shouldn’t send an email questioning the changes since these too could be diverted or intercepted by fraudsters. If you have any concerns, don’t transfer the funds until you’ve verified that the money is being sent to the correct recipient at the correct time.

What Happens If I Become A Victim Of Fraud When Purchasing A Home?

If you, unfortunately, become a victim of Conveyancing fraud, you should immediately contact your bank to let them know and to ask if they could contact the bank receiving the money to freeze your funds. You should also let your estate agent and solicitors know so they can help to guard against any other clients becoming a target. Once you have done this, you should get in touch with Action Fraud by calling them on 0300 123 2040 or via their website.

Here at Amar Mustafa - The REAL Estate Agent, we’re committed to ensuring that our clients steer clear of fraudsters. To this end, we will always confirm that a payment to us is genuine but, if you are in any doubt, you can always call us on 020 3150 5007 to find out more.