Money redirection fraud
Julie Read* can still remember the horror of finding out that fraudsters posing as her solicitor had stolen her deposit for the house she was buying.
“We had found our dream home so were so excited and relieved when what we thought was our solicitor phoned and said we were able to exchange,” said the mother-of-three from London. “They gave us the details for the bank account and we transferred the £90,000 deposit straight away – we didn’t want any delay to cost us the house.”
Julie was busy phoning her friends and family to tell them they had exchanged on the house when her conveyancer rang. He said that they were about to exchange and she needed to pay the deposit.
“I was confused and then I felt sick,” said Julie. “I couldn’t understand how they got my details and how I could have fallen for it. The police said that the fraudsters would have been hacking email addresses until they found someone in the process of buying a property and used that to get the information needed to pass themselves off as my solicitors.”
Julie is not alone in having suffered this crime. Every other day a would-be property buyer in the UK has their deposit stolen by fraudsters who have posed as their conveyancer. It can be hours or days before the real conveyancer calls about the deposit and the police are called in.
By then the criminals will have transferred the money abroad and shut down the bank account, making it hard for police or other investigators to find them.
In monetary terms, the average deposit is £90,000 but emotionally they come at a far higher cost. The buyer ends up unable to buy their house, left emotionally distraught and finds it hard to trust people in future.
This is known as Buyer Deposit Redirection Fraud and is costing £13 million a year in the UK.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Giving information about property transaction fraud
Crimestoppers takes information about crime, anonymises it, and passes it on to law enforcement agencies. If you've got information about someone committing property fraud you can talk to us anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete our anonymous online form.
We are unable to take information from victims of property fraud: if you are a victim, please contact Action Fraud (please note that this route is not anonymous).