Property Fraud Threat Remains

The reality of the English property market re-opening meant that many in the sector breathed a huge sigh of relief, as once again livelihoods and the economy could begin to kick start itself and begin the recovery following the doldrums of lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it is worth reminding everyone involved in the buying and selling process that fraud can happen, and can often cost one of the people involved thousands of pounds. The main target, is often the conveyancing solicitor, as this is the criminal’s easiest way in.

According to UK Finance, Bank Transfer Fraud increased by 18% in 2019, resulting in losses of £31.7m, which on average is £6,700 per victim.

Only 40% of the stolen money is recovered.

Research conducted by the HomeOwners Alliance and DigitalMove carried out by YouGov, finds that people often focus on the wrong things when it comes to payment fraud.

  • Debit/credit card fraud tops the worry list of payment fraud concerns for UK adults, with 70% saying they are personally concerned about this type of fraud. Identify theft (64%) and phishing (51%) also topped the list.
  • People are least worried about bank transfer fraud (42%), yet it is this type of fraud where if they fall victim, they will be less likely to recoup their losses, and could result in them losing their home.
  • Average credit/debit card fraud is £226 per victim; compared to £6,700 per victim of bank transfer fraud. 98% of credit/debit card victims are reimbursed; compared to 40% reimbursed to invoice related bank transfer fraud.
  • Although the average loss per victim for bank transfer fraud from invoice scams is just under £4,000 on average per person; the figure is likely to be substantially higher as victims will either recoup all or none of their losses.
  • Less than a quarter (24%) of UK adults think they are likely to be able to recover some of their funds if they are a victim of bank transfer fraud, while 71% expect to be able to recover some of their funds from credit card fraud and 68% from debit card fraud.
  • When asked about their concerns when moving money to purchase their home, the transfer fees charged by conveyancers (on average £20) topped their list of worries at 21%. Yet only 1 in 10 of those who purchased their home were worried about the security of payment instructions from their conveyancer/ solicitor sent by email; compared to 17% worried about making mistakes entering the bank details of their conveyancing solicitor for their bank transfer.

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive, Homeowners Alliance, says:

“There’s a lot to think about when you’re buying a home and the process is often very pressurised and fast moving. Given this and the huge sums of money changing hands it’s no wonder the conveyancing process is targeted by fraudsters. Consumers need to be wide awake to the risks and costs of this type of fraud. When appointing a conveyancer, they need to ask what security measures they have in place.”

Steve Goodall, CEO of ULS Technology, commented:

“It is well known that moving home is one of the most stressful experiences in life, but few homebuyers and sellers realise that they are at risk of fraud. More work needs to be done to raise consumer awareness of these risks and provide them with better protection.

“The DigitalMove team at ULS have been delivering technological innovations that help mitigate the risk of fraud. By encouraging consumers to use our secure online portal, we are removing the need for easily compromised email communications throughout the entire conveyancing process, and denying fraudsters access to sensitive information.

“Look for conveyancing firms that use a digital portal to provide a better experience for customers. Digital Move and other such portals are extremely useful for giving you access to your case details online, and allowing you to upload and complete forms in a secure environment. These systems will also speed up your home move legal work at the same time.”

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