There are over one million property transactions in a year in the UK: that’s a lot of people buying houses! Sadly not all purchases go smoothly – in 2015 86 buyers lost their deposit to fraudsters and, in 2016, that number increased to 159. Learn about property transaction fraud, and what you can do to protect yourself:
How does property transaction fraud take place?
The buyer receives communication in the form of a telephone call, written letter or email, which claims to be from their conveyancer. Within this phone call or correspondence, the buyer is provided with bank details that actually belong to a fraudster, but the buyer believes that they have come from their conveyancer.
I’m buying a property – how can I protect my money?
Choose a conveyancer registered with the Safe Buyer Scheme:
When you've chosen your conveyancer, make sure you only send money to bank accounts that you know. If you don’t know the bank account, use Safe Buyer to verify it.
Property transaction fraud is worth around £25 million a year to fraudsters: they will invest time in finding out information about the house you are buying, who your conveyancer is, and how much you are paying for the house. Protect yourself against fraud.
Buyer avoids £10,000 loss
In November 2015 Mr.Tamang began the process of purchasing a property and instructed RG Solicitors to act on his behalf. RG Solicitors informed him of the risk of buyer deposit fraud and recommended the Safe Buyer Scheme.
Mr Tamang said: “I am grateful to RG for this advice as, in February when I was about to exchange contracts, I received email instructions that appeared to be from RG Solicitors asking me to transfer my £10,000 deposit to a bank account that stated it belonged to my solicitors. The email I received looked exactly the same as previous emails from my solicitor. Prior to transferring the funds however, I logged into the Safe Buyer Scheme which immediately alerted me and showed me that the account didn't match my solicitor's account. I therefore did not send the funds, to what was in fact a bogus email with bank accounts details controlled by criminals. The Safe Buyer Scheme has identified that my emails were hacked and that is how the criminals received my personal data. In my opinion all buyers should use the Safe Buyer Scheme as Safe Buyer is proven to prevent this kind of fraud."
The Safe Buyer Scheme sent alerts to the conveyancing firm in real time and filed an Action Fraud report to the police.
Couple lose £45,000
Richard and Sarah Tough fell victim to a property transaction fraud in January 2016, losing £45,000. Richard said: "Nobody told me of the threat to my deposit being stolen. I am now aware that criminals can use things like email to impersonate conveyancers to steal deposits.
"Modern technology means it's very easy for fraudsters to intercept email communications. A system that checks bank account details is a really good idea - I certainly would have checked my solicitor's bank account before sending my money if I'd know there was a risk of fraud."
The Safe Buyer scheme provides an independent system that verifies solicitor's bank account details.
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).