Could you be a victim of a property scam?

Summer is a time when many of us consider selling and buying property.  It’s the perfect opportunity to start over and whether you are upsizing or downsizing, a perfect time for change but not a time to become a victim.

We all think we’re immune to becoming the victim of an online scam but the reality is scammers are getting more and more savvy whilst blurring the line between what is genuine and what is not. Anyone can fall victim to a scam and it’s becoming more common than you would think.

Just a few months ago, a couple from London were tricked into transferring £137,500 to a fraudster who was posing as their conveyancing solicitor. The couple’s email thread with their solicitor and mortgage broker was intercepted by a criminal. They were attempting to send a deposit for their new home to their solicitor but instead ending up losing £60,000. The solicitors account information did not match the bank details that the money was sent to but this did not seem to be questioned at the time.

Whilst Barclays managed to get some of the money back there is still £60,000 that is untraceable and of which the couple are out of pocket. You may think nothing like this could ever happen to you but the fact is email modification fraud is on the up and it is here to stay. Criminals are working on techniques that make correspondences as realistic as possible. Forget the classic spam emails that may fill your junk folders, criminals are working more streamlined than ever, meaning the risk of money transfers going to the wrong place is higher than ever.

The London couple were lucky to even see part of their money returned to them as it is ultimately down to the banks whether or not they decide to reimburse the victim. Customers are legally protected for un-authorised fraudulent payments, such as hacked accounts but they are not protected if they simply send an authorised payment to the wrong account. Transactions need to be properly protected and prevention strategies need to be taken seriously no matter how redundant or banal they may seem at the time.

You don’t have to fall victim to a scam and here’s some ways how:

  1. Don’t rely on caller id –– this may sound obvious but some scammers can clone numbers and sound convincing on the phone.
  2. Don’t click on links from unexpected emails –– despite an email seeming like it is from the person you’ve been dealing with, it is likely that it may not be.
  3. Be cautious when handing out personal information –– if someone asks for information about you without the invitation, make sure you check with the company you’re dealing with directly before you give them anything.
  4. Don’t be pressured into quick decisions or payments –– buying a house is an important process and so is all the paperwork that comes with it so it is ok to be hesitant at times.

Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to flag something up with your conveyancer if something doesn’t feel right. A certain amount of skepticism can be healthy and prevent you from becoming the victim of a scam.




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