Homebuyers losing thousands intended for conveyancers say SRA

Homebuyers are losing money to criminals at a rate of knots, according to the SRA.

Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire show yesterday afternoon after a couple lost their £45,000 deposit to cyber criminals, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Chief Executive, Paul Philip, said: “In December last year we reported ten cases of such scams. It is unfortunately becoming really quite common.”

The City of London police said that between 1st January 2013 and 31st October 2015, the average loss for reported incidents was £112,310, the BBC reported.

Some believe encrypted emails would offer a level of protection against such attacks. However Edward Powell of security firm BE Consultancy disagrees.

Edward said: “Email encryption involves the sender scrambling the digital content of an email and the recipient using a decryption code to unscramble the content so it returns to its pre-encrypted state.

“In a conveyancing scenario the conveyancer would need to obtain an encryption code from the client so the conveyancer can send encrypted messages that the client can decrypt. Another code must be kept securely by the client, as anyone with this code can decrypt the conveyancer’s messages.

“But there are a few issues for a client in this instance. The crimes are usually committed by criminals using a similar but not exact match to the conveyancer’s email address. These emails are spoofs and trick the client in to thinking that they have receive a genuine email from their conveyancer – encryption has no benefit and offers no protection to phishing emails.

“As well as that, personal computers are at a high risk of being infected by malicious code which steals decryption code as personal computers have a large surface area for cyber-attacks.

“Then there is the software itself. The client has to install and use encryption software which may be troublesome. They then may not be able to use it on multiple devices like mobiles or work computers. But even if they do this only serves to increase the number of attack points for malware.”

BE Consultancy recently launched the Safe Move Scheme, which they say would help in instances like this.

Edward Powell continued: “What is actually needed to prevent Buyer Deposit Redirection Fraud and other types of property transaction crime is a multi-faceted approach involving a control system that provides specific tools to mitigate risk from each type of property transaction crime, like the Safe Move Scheme.

“To take Buyer Deposit Redirection Fraud as an example the Safe Move Scheme provides a tool for clients to enter the conveyancer’s bank account details for independent validation before they send the money.

“The Safe Move Scheme provides other tools for other specific risks like a secure messaging and file transfer system that doesn’t use email and is easy to use, plus a data security policy that mitigates the risk of sensitive data being leaked unintentionally.”

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