Conveyancing scam cases rising – Lloyds

Homebuyers lose thousands of pounds to fraudsters

Conveyancing scam cases rising – Lloyds

Homebuyers are increasingly targeted by criminals hacking emails to exploit the conveyancing process, with a rising number tricked into sending their property deposit to fraudsters.

Analysis by Lloyds Bank of conveyancing scam reports from its customers showed a 29% increase in the second half of last year. While the number of cases remains lower compared to other types of fraud, the average amount stolen is higher, at around £47,000 per victim. Several cases involved losses exceeding £250,000.

Approximately 45% of victims are aged 39 or under, indicating first-time buyers might be particularly vulnerable due to their lack of experience in the homebuying process.

“Buying a new home is one of the most exciting moments many of us will ever experience,” said Liz Ziegler (pictured), fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank. “But it can also be incredibly stressful, given the amount of money involved, and the need to navigate a complex legal process.

“While the financial consequences of these scams are severe, the emotional toll can be even greater. The fraud often leads to the collapse of a property transaction, with a devastating long-term impact on those involved.

“Fraudsters prey on weaknesses in email security and exploit a conveyancing process that most people may only experience a handful of times in their lives. It’s vital that solicitors also grasp the importance of educating their clients on the risk of this type of scam and make a point of sharing payment details in person at the start of the homebuying process.”

How a conveyancing scam happens

  • Conveyancing scams often begin when a solicitor's or homebuyer's email account is hacked
  • Fraudsters monitor email exchanges related to the property purchase, waiting to send false payment details at a critical moment
  • They may send emails from the solicitor’s hacked account or create a spoof email address that appears similar
  • The fraudulent emails are convincing, using genuine names, logos, and signatures
  • Sometimes, fraudsters call the victim, impersonating someone from the solicitor’s office to create urgency
  • The homebuyer is then tricked into sending money to an account controlled by the criminals

How to protect yourself from conveyancing scams

  • Verify payment instructions: Confirm payment instructions with your solicitor in person or over the phone using a trusted number, not from an email or invoice
  • Be wary of changes: Solicitors rarely change their bank account details. Be cautious of sudden changes and remember that email is not secure for payment instructions
  • Secure your email: Use strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication on all email accounts. Avoid using shared devices and unprotected Wi-Fi connections
  • Avoid posting online: Do not announce your property purchase on social media until after completion, as criminals monitor such posts
  • Don’t be pressurised: Fraudsters may pressure you to make a payment quickly. Always verify with your solicitor using a trusted number before sending money
  • Pay attention to warnings: Heed warnings from your bank, especially if the account name does not match the receiving account details. Always follow the advice provided.  

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