Conveyancing is the most essential element of the house-buying process. Both buyer and seller rely on the legal professionals involved to ensure the transaction is completed in good time and without risk to either side.
However, new research from Barclays has revealed that many buyers are vulnerable to online swindlers who intercept legitimate emails from conveyancing solicitors and persuade the buyer to transfer thousands of pounds to the fraudsters' bank account instead.
This online fraud is particularly prevalent in London where Barclays say 13 percent of homebuyers are targeted by this type of conveyancing con, commonly referred to as "Friday afternoon fraud" as this is the most popular time transactions to complete and also gives the hackers the weekend to cover their tracks.
The fraud generally involves cyber criminals hacking into the email system of the conveyancing firm or the client - and often both - sending false information that causes funds for the property purchase to be redirected to the criminals' own bank account.
Increasing public awareness of online financial safety
Barclays has launched its own £10 million advertising campaign to increase public awareness of this sort of digital fraud, encouraging people to be more vigilant about their online financial safety.
Chief executive of Barclays UK, Ashok Vaswani, said: "As a society, our confidence in using digital technology to shop, pay our bills and connect with others has grown faster than our knowledge of how to do so safely. This has created a 'digital safety gap' which is being exploited by criminals. I believe the need to fight fraud has now become a national resilience issue, and we all need to boost our digital safety levels in order to close the gap."
London is the UK's most targeted city by fraudsters, its sheer size and much greater population making it an obvious focus. Liverpool (10 percent), Birmingham (nine percent) and Bristol (eight percent) were the next cities most at risk of fraud, while the safest cities were Leeds (two percent) and Manchester (three percent).
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory arm of the Law Society, reported in December 2017 that email hacks caused £7m of client losses over the previous year. This type of fraud accounted for 75 percent of all cybercrimes reported to the SRA.
To combat the threat and minimise the risk posed to both legal firms and clients, the SRA has made online security for its members a priority and offers up-to-date advice on protecting email systems and client confidentiality.
All firms on Homeward Legal's nationwide panel of solicitors and conveyancing solicitors are accredited by the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) and regulated by the SRA, giving clients the greater peace of mind that their digital security is in safe hands.
Here we take a look at some of the more common frauds that can affect clients at the conclusion of the conveyancing process and explain how Homeward Legal can help keep you and your money safe.