Homebuyers are warned of a spike in scams that have left victims in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Bar of England and Wales warns against embezzlement fraud – where criminals target purchases of real estate to trick people into transferring their security deposit and / or other funds used for their to buy a house.
It has partnered with the National Economic Crime Center (NECC), housed within the National Crime Agency, and Action Fraud to publish leaflets warning of the risk.
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The phasing out of a stamp duty holiday has helped produce a surge in home sales in recent months, with real estate professionals saying they are working long hours to help buyers beat deadlines.
The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted many people to relocate as part of lifestyle changes.
The Law Society said the frauds “almost always” involve criminals posing as the victim’s lawyer to trick them into diverting their payment to an account they control.
Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce said, âWe urge our members to share these flyers with their clients in order to protect them from these highly sophisticated and cruel schemes.
âThese frauds can involve huge sums of money and have a devastating lifelong impact on a homebuyer and their personal finances. Lawyers and their clients can all help make these crimes more difficult for criminals. “
A home buyer has been scammed into giving him Â£ 640,000, the Law Society has said.
E-mails between the buyer and his lawyer had been intercepted by criminals, who were able to collect all the information relating to the purchase of the house.
They then used a “spoofed” email account to request payment. Payment details were provided on attorneys’ letterhead via the forged email, and the amount requested was exactly what the buyer expected to pay.
The victim was then informed by the real lawyer that the payments had not been requested. Most of the money was never recovered, which virtually wiped out the victim’s equity and savings, and led to their purchase collapsing, the Law Society said.
Buyers should be extremely vigilant if there appears to be a change in payment details, and always verify by calling their lawyer before transferring their money, he advised.
Jon Shilland, NECC Fraud Threat Officer, said: âPayment embezzlement fraud is on the rise and it is critical to be aware of the threat as criminals target homebuyers due to the scale. transactions.
âWhenever a client makes a payment to their lawyer for the purchase of a home, they should be very suspicious of any changes in account details or new instructions. Remind them to always check from a known trusted contact and if in any doubt that he will not transfer the money. “
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