Conveyancing fraud: No room for complacency

Fraudulent activity within the conveyancing sector has recently been highlighted in a radio programme by the BBC.

A regular feature which deals with consumer affairs, the first segment of You & Yours spoke about the prevalence of conveyancing fraud within the legal sector, drawing attention to real life cases.

It focussed on caller ‘Eddie’, and how a fraudster was able to dupe his solicitor in regard to the sale of his mother’s property.

He told the programme that he had lost over £27,000 after email correspondence between himself and his solicitor were hacked. The solicitors had sent him copies of a trail of emails that they had supposedly received from him, along with a handwritten letter which had contained the false bank account details. When reviewing these, Eddie realised that rather than having sent these himself, the solicitors had been corresponding with a criminal.

The solicitors were unable to comment on the case as it was still under investigation, however, they stated that their procedures had been reviewed in light of the incident.

Talking on the programme was Christina Blacklaws from the Law Society.

She highlighted the sheer devastation which conveyancing fraud can cause, for both the firm and the consumer.

As well as working with the police, Ms Blacklaws stressed that the Law Society is consistently working with member firms and providing advice and training in order to minimise the risk of such fraud ever taking place.

However, she did highlight that there was no room for complacency among law firms, given that the Society had been drawing attention to the risks of fraud for over three years.

Advising consumers, Ms Blacklaws stated that an alternative method of communication should be formally agreed, only to be used if bank details do need to be changed. Similarly, no confidential information should be given over the phone, especially if the call is unexpected.

The SRA’s Risk Outlook was updated in April 2017 and cybersecurity was highlighted as a priority risk. For further guidance, the Risk Outlook can be accessed here.

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