We are all aware, these days, that fraudsters are targeting online transactions and it seems just as we are given a new way to avoid becoming a victim, these online criminals find a new way to steal our money.
A disturbing report from the National Crime Agency & Action Fraud has just given us the story of a buyer who lost £640, 000 buying a property. Yes, you read that right, more than half a million pounds!
When making a property purchase either cash or mortgaged, you will at some point need to transfer funds to your solicitor as deposit of total purchase price. Online fraudsters in the majority of reported cases, pretend to be your solicitor and will give bank details for you to make the transfer. How do they do this – by intercepting or diverting your emails. These people are very sophisticated and can seem to know your case and sound professional and many have been fooled.
Any request from your solicitor to change account details should set alarm bells ringing. Call the solicitor immediately using a number you trust and speak to someone you have had dealings with already, if you can. Check the number against the correspondence you will have received when you first agreed to instruct. If in any doubt whatsoever – don’t send the money!
ALWAYS check with the solicitor (again using a telephone number you trust) before you send any large sum of money in respect of your property purchase. Call the solicitor to confirm that they made the request.
Once you have sent the money, it is very unlikely you will ever see it again so take your time and be sure.
If that wasn’t enough to worry about, there horrifying reports of homeowners finding their property have been sold out from under them. So, if you have had your identity stolen, live overseas, the property is not mortgaged or is not registered with Land Registry you are most at risk.
The answer – make sure your property is registered with the Land Registry and sign up to receive property alerts – this will alert you to any activity concerning the title of your land. Land purchased before 1989 may not be registered and the paper deed or conveyance may be in your possession or have been filed with the solicitor who acted for you on the purchase.
If someone is trying to use your address to gain a mortgage or change the title owner, they must make an application to the Land Registry – this will give you the time to stop the fraud. Once it’s done, it becomes a civil matter that can take time and money to rectify.