Breaking consumer warnings of property fraud

The latest episode of Rip Off Britain aired live on BBC this morning (12 October 2016) sheds fresh light to consumers on email scams within property transactions.

Consumers have been warned today about the increasing sophistication of fraudsters and the ways in which they can be personally targeted when purchasing a house.

Two cases were raised with regards to large sums of money being lost through email scams. In the case of Paul Lupton in September 2015, Lupton and his wife lost £333,000 after having their emails intercepted and the money being transferred to a fraudulent account.

The second case was based in Northern Ireland, where Amanda Jackson, another house purchaser, was transferring money to her solicitor to complete the transaction. She was sent an email stating the solicitors had changed their bank account details, seemingly from the same account and contact with whom Jackson had been dealing with. Assuming it was safer than transferring electronically, she proceeded to visit the bank in order to transfer the remaining £80,000 via BACS transfer, on Friday. The following week, Jackson contacted her solicitor to ensure this large sum of money had been received successfully. The firm checked and confirmed they had not received the funds and had no account at the bank in question.

Following further investigation, it was discovered that rather than the solicitor’s email account being hacked, it was the consumer’s email account that was infected and was being tracked. This allowed the hacker to simply change one letter of the legitimate email address from the firm and to send an email that appeared identical to the previous ones that had been sent to the consumer.

Having raised the required funds from friends, family and fundraisers, Jackson was able to go ahead with the property purchase, but in the end lost around £76,000 to the criminal.

The programme continued with ethical hacker, Jason Hart of Gemalto showing a simulated attack, in which he used a widely available device that acts as a fake wifi connection and just the click of a button.

Detective Inspector, Kate Balls of the City of London Police highlighted that a large number of these fraudsters are part of organised groups, many of which operate overseas, making the transactions all the more difficult to trace. It was also stressed the significance of transferring funds on a Friday, when errors or unusual activity will only be made apparent on the following Monday.

This coverage is important for conveyancers and property professionals to be aware of, as consumers will become more educated and will require support, due diligence and reassurance from you as the professional in order to know their hard earned money is protected.

To watch the Rip Off Britain programme, please click here – the relevant coverage appears from 03:15 to 18:00 within the clip.

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