Spike in criminals targeting property purchases, Law Society warns

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Landlords have been warned about a spike in payment diversion scams that leave victims defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Criminals are actively targeting property purchases with the aim of tricking people into transferring over their house deposit and sometimes the balance to them, almost always by pretending to be the victim’s lawyer, the Law Society has warned.

One house buyer was scammed into handing over £640,000 after emails between him and his solicitor were intercepted by criminals who collected all the information relating to the house purchase. They then used a spoofed email account – made to look like that of the solicitor – to request payment.

Never recovered

Details were provided on headed solicitor’s paper on the email and the amount requested was exactly what the buyer had expected to pay. Most of the money was never recovered, all but wiping out the victim’s equity and savings, and leading to the collapse of their purchase.

The Law Society of England and Wales has joined forces with the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) and Action Fraud to warn of the dangers and advise buyers to be extremely vigilant if there appears to be any change of payment details, and to always double-check by calling their lawyer before making a transfer.

Jon Shilland, fraud threat lead at the NECC (pictured), says: “Whenever a client is making a payment to their solicitor for a house purchase, they should be highly suspicious of any change in account details or new instructions.

“Remind them to always check with a trusted known contact, and if they have any doubt not to transfer the money.”

Read more about property crime.

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