Consumer Loses £600k In Conveyancing Scam

A consumer has been left almost £600,000 out of pocket after falling victim to a conveyancing scam.

A consumer has been left almost £600,000 out of pocket after falling victim to a conveyancing scam.  

According to the Telegraph Money, this is most significant loss resulting from this kind of fraud ever reported by the paper, leaving the consumer feeling that “his life has been destroyed”.

Since being duped by the fraudster, the restauranteur who does not wish to disclose his identity said his bank has not given him further information “of any substance”.

Last year, after locating a flat he liked, the consumer started corresponding with Yorkshire firm Langleys via email.

A month later in December, he was sent an email from a different address, querying whether funds were available. Whilst this email contained both the name of the solicitor and the firm, it was sent from a Gmail account.

However, in light of his experience of firms using two email addresses, the consumer did not question the legitimacy of the email. Seeing the name of the company, he stated, also provided reassurance.

A few days later, the fraudster sent a further email requesting that the funds be sent to the vendor’s solicitor in order to ensure that the transaction would complete by the end of January.

According to the consumer, correspondence with both the criminal and the genuine firm continued, with both addresses even included in the same email on one occasion. The consumer stated that this was not, however, picked up by the solicitor at the firm.

Telling the paper that he felt pressure to transfer the funds as soon a possible, the consumer borrowed money from his own company before making a bank transfer to an Ulster Bank account of £593,055.20. This was in line with the instructions from the fraudster.

The nature of the fraud only emerged when the consumer discovered that the solicitor at Langley’s was completely unaware of the transfer. It was then reported to Ulster Bank, Natwest and Action Fraud.

Despite immediately raising the alarm, the victim stated that “No one seemed to have any record of my name, reference number and the case. And I’ve no idea what to do.”

Whilst many would like to think they would query this questionable correspondence, others wouldn’t – and that’s not surprising. As awareness around fraud grows, criminals are refining their techniques, with emails becoming more believable and interception becoming more sophisticated.

Stress, lack of time, and eagerness to complete also play a part, meaning that even the most vigilant consumer or professional could be duped, putting client money at risk with just a single click.

As similar cases have made clear in the past, this highlights the importance of encouraging consumers to correspond with their solicitor over the phone or, if possible, in person prior to sending any funds.

Where there is any doubt, it is always recommended to remind clients to contact the legal professional directly rather than use details included in an email or text.

During a climate of heightened risk, it's vital to reassure clients that their money is protected and that your firm has implemented the necessary preventative steps to ensure it's safe. With cases such as this constantly hitting the headlines, clients want to know what additional measures your firm has taken to help prevent their money being the target of a cyber attack.

As well as protecting transactions to a consistently high level, the use of a service such as Lawyer Checker can positively influence the culture within a firm and ensure that employees are alert to the risk.

Click here to find out how Lawyer Checker can protect your clients’ money.