Consumers are not as worried as they should be about conveyancing fraud, putting them at risk of losing life-changing sums of money.
That’s the view of the HomeOnwers’ Alliance, which says bank transfer fraud in this sector increased 18 per cent in 2019 with victims losing an average of £6,700.
Bank transfer fraud is when a victim attempts to pay an invoice to a legitimate payee, but the criminal intervenes to convince the victim to redirect the bank transfer to an account they control.
Scammers have included criminals targeting consumers posing as conveyancing solicitors, builders and other tradespeople. It often involves the criminal either intercepting emails or compromising an email account.
“The vast majority of these scams involve the transfer of substantial sums of money – and conveyancing solicitors are the main target. Even more worryingly, only 40 per cent of the money lost is recovered” says the HOA in a new report out today.
Research for the Alliance and tech company DigitalMove, carried out by polling firm YouGov, finds that consumers are focussing on what the organisations call “the wrong things” when it comes to payment fraud.
While debit and credit card fraud tops the worry list of payment fraud concerns for UK adults, people are least worried about bank transfer fraud.
Yet according to the HOA “it is this [bank transfer] type of fraud where if they fall victim, they will be less likely to recoup their losses, and could result in them losing their home.”
When specifically asked about their concerns when moving money to purchase their home, the transfer fees charged by conveyancers - on average £20 - topped their list of worries at 21 per cent.
“Yet only one in 10 of those who purchased their home were worried about the security of payment instructions from their conveyancer/ solicitor sent by email; compared to 17 per cent worried about making mistakes entering the bank details of their conveyancing solicitor for their bank transfer” according to the HOIA analysis.
Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, says: “There’s a lot to think about when you’re buying a home and the process is often very pressurised and fast moving. Given this and the huge sums of money changing hands it’s no wonder the conveyancing process is targeted by fraudsters. Consumers need to be wide awake to the risks and costs of this type of fraud. When appointing a conveyancer, they need to ask what security measures they have in place.”
The chances of recouping your money once it has been redirected by criminals is slim, she adds.