Research highlights a record number of conveyancing related cyber thefts

The Law Society has published its latest roundup, highlighting recent research on the legal services market. The roundup covers information from legal sector bodies, the Ministry of Justice, academics and others interested in the sector.

According to the report, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has seen a record number of reports of cyber thefts from law firms in the first quarter of 2017, with house moves the primary target. The SRA received “more than double the amount of reports of cyber theft in Q1 2017 compared with the same period of last year, with triple the amount (£3.2 million) stolen”. It adds that “around three-quarters of cases involve some form of email hacking fraud, where criminals modify emails and alter bank details so funds go to the criminal”. Around half of the cases involve money being used for house moves.

The findings are backed up by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau which has also reported on the increased risk. According to the Bureau’s data, there was an 85% increase in the theft of property deposits in 2016.

SRA Chief Executive, Paul Philip said: “Challenges such as keeping information safe, cybercrime and compliance with anti-money-laundering regulations need constant attention.

“The threats of criminals using IT to steal client’s funds is an increasing problem. It is important that law firms develop a culture where cyber security is treated as a serious priority, and take sensible steps to warn their clients about the risks.”

The SRA paid out more than £1 million from its compensation fund last year (November 2015 to October 2016) in relation to conveyancing matters. This includes paying grants to replace stolen funds that were intended for house deposits.

The Law Society Roundup also highlights future, independent research that will look at the public’s experience of conveyancing.

Around 1,000 former conveyancing clients will be asked for their opinions on the legal aspects of their house purchase or sale. They will feedback on issues such as access, choice, quality and cost. The SRA hopes that the study will “draw out good and poor practice, and any specific areas of concern that we might need to address”.

The project will also look at a how people view technology when it comes to conveyancing. This includes whether it is simplifying and speeding up the process, as well as their experience of risks such as cybercrime.

The findings will be available in winter 2017.

Click here to view the Law Society Research Roundup Autumn 2017

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