Conveyancing solicitors got together recently to warn about buyers and sellers using email to manage their transactions. With concerns over possible fraud on the increase, many are pushing for a return to traditional post and fax rather than online options such as email and text.
While email is suitable and expedient for getting in touch with clients and passing on certain information, when it is used for sensitive data such as bank account details, it leaves senders and recipients open to the possibility of fraud. Some of these cases have seen victims losing thousands of pounds and with no chance of recovering their losses. Fraudsters have been able to intercept email communications and use the bank details by replacing their own transfer details to gain access to buyer and seller accounts and transactions.
While online solutions are being sought that make the sending of sensitive financial details between solicitor and client more secure, the Conveyancing Association has recommended that using post is still the safest way to maintain the integrity of certain communications. The new online system the Association is looking to bring on board would have password verification and be more secure. With only one in five of solicitors who are part of the association, that still leaves a large number of firms that won’t have access to a central processing system that is fit for purpose.
Other advice also includes not mentioning that you are buying or selling a house when you are online or using social media. Criminal gangs can monitor the flow of conversation with software and identify those who are more likely to have potential for a fraudulent activity. They can then target individuals.
The Conveyancing Association is doing a lot of work to make sure that solicitors are more aware of the prospect and impact of cybercrime in general. That includes conveyancing solicitors reviewing their security measures and making sure these are robust enough to deal with any threats. The majority of attempts to defraud businesses and individuals are not particularly hi-tech or sophisticated – often involving encouraging a user to either click on a link or open a file – and a little knowledge can help keep both solicitors and their clients safe.
In the meantime, however, the time honoured process of sending sensitive material, including contracts, by post may take a little longer but is much more secure. Indeed, many solicitor firms have gone back to using fax as well.
For those buying or selling property, before engaging the services of a particular conveyancing solicitor it would be prudent to ask a few questions about their security arrangements before you give away personal details. Many more now make this part of their online information and have a strategy in place they are more than willing to discuss. Others, unfortunately, still don’t have the right processes in place.