Woman loses £129,000 after receiving bogus email claiming to be from conveyancers
A woman who bought a house before auction and transferred the majority of the £148,000 price to a fraudster says by the time she realised what had happened, her bank’s fraud team had gone home.
Dr Ellen Wright bought a flat in south east London at auction in January 2015, agreeing a price of £148,000. Before making the final payment of £137,000 she received an email explaining the firm’s client account details had changed.
Dr Wright made the payment and left for a four-day skiing holiday. When she called her Beverley Morris & Co to arrange to collect keys, she received the news that the transaction had not gone through.
She called her bank’s fraud team but was told that by 18h40 on the Friday, they had all gone home. Over the next two days RBS managed to claw back £8,000, but the rest had already gone by the time Dr Wright was aware anything had happened.
According to Police, fraudsters had gained access to Dr Wright’s email address and had been impersonating both the solicitors to Dr Wright, and Dr Wright to the solicitors.
The Metropolitan Police say two women were arrested and bailed in connection with scam, with a third questioned.
Dr Wright told The Telegraph: “I have no idea if there is any prospect of any money being returned to me. The police say it may be part of a much bigger operation nationwide.
She also noted problems with the emails sent to her and from her account.
She said: “It had the names the wrong way around – it was addressed to Ellen. It also didn’t use capital letters. The words were not the sort I would have used.
“I don’t understand why the solicitor firm didn’t try and phone me.”
Angela Stanton, of Beverley Morris and Co who dealt with the transaction said she did not call Dr Wright during this time because she knew “how difficult it is to take calls when you are on the slopes.”
Angela said: “We had always communicated by e-mail and I thought she would read my e-mails when she got back to her hotel room later that day. Neither of us expected our e-mails to be intercepted. When we realised what had happened we were both absolutely dumbfounded.”
Ms Stanton says her company network was not compromised. Since the fraud occurred, the firm has added a note to the bottom of company correspondence that says it no longer sends bank details by email.