Across the UK, estate agents and law firms have reported incidents of fraudsters attempting to hack into email chains between house buyers or sellers and their solicitors.
Buying and selling property can be a stressful time for both parties, so the recent spate of incidents reported across the country is something we have been keeping an eye on and doing our best to inform our clients about.
Just for clarity, none of Milne Moser Solicitors’ or Estate Agency clients have been targeted by this activity.
The fraudster monitors the communications using malware that looks for key words like ‘house purchase’, ‘deposit’, ‘buy’ and ‘payment’ – and then they make their move. They hack into the email account and contact the client disguised as the solicitor or law firm they have been liaising with.
The fraudsters tell the client by email that the solicitor’s bank account details have changed, or they amend the account number before the client gets it. The fraudsters give the details of the ‘new’ account for the deposit to be sent. Unknowingly, the client transfers their money to the false account.
The false account is owned by the fraudster, leaving the solicitor or client at a substantial financial loss. Unfortunately in these circumstances, the lender cannot recover the funds because they were an authorised payment.
Buyers/sellers protection advice:
- Don’t feel pressured into changing any bank details. If you receive an email stating a change in the bank details, you should ring the solicitors on a previously used telephone number.
- Check the email address carefully and, again, if in doubt telephone your solicitor to check the information is correct
- Buyers and sellers should avoid using public Wi-Fi systems to check emails when house purchases are being made. Fraudsters can easily hack into vulnerable and ‘open’ Wi-Fi systems.
- Avoid sharing social media posts about buying/selling your house. Fraudsters may get hold of this information and know the next step is a large financial transaction.