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‘Friday conveyancing fraud’ getting worse due to remote working – warning

Home-movers are being warned to be on alert for ‘Friday afternoon fraud,’ which experts claim is becoming more common since the pandemic.

The rising trend sees fraudsters targeting house deposit payments in a con also known as payment diversion or conveyancing fraud. 

Typically, it centres on hacking the email account of the house buyer or the solicitor handling a sale, then impersonating the solicitor before sending fake bank details for the buyer to transfer sale payments or deposit money to.


It tends to happen on a Friday as victims then won’t discover they have been conned until the following Monday.

Jonathan Rolande, from the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB), has warned that the issue has been worsened by the pandemic as lots of people have moved to remote working.

He told a special Which? report on the topic: “It's become a worse situation since things have become remote. 

“Quite often, you'll never meet your mortgage advisor, you'll never meet your solicitor, these things are often done in call centres.

“People do play on that little bit more and also, particularly in the last couple of years, as the property market has got so frantic, everyone's got busy and it may be that certain sort of corners are being cut by estate agents by solicitors, by purchasers or sellers themselves, just to get things done.”

There are also reports of scammers phoning home buyers and impersonating a member of the solicitor’s accounts team and providing new bank account details where those deposits are to be paid into.

Rolande advises buyers to check the bank account details provided at the very start of the process and only use that.

Where a scammer is impersonating a solicitor, he will often use an email address that is almost identical to the genuine address, maybe changed by one character.

He said one check a buyer can make is to see if their email address has been exposed in a data breach by looking it up on a website called haveibeenpwned.com.

Rolande added: “Most property completions actually happen on a Friday. Not only is it a problem, if that kind of money goes missing from the person who's the victim, but you can imagine there is an incredible incentive for people to commit crime.

“Unfortunately, it's one of those awful crimes where you only need to be lucky once as the criminal, and you might get hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“These are life changing amounts that could potentially be lost for people. Rules, actually, are there already - estate agents, mortgage companies and solicitors all have to take very thorough identity checks, for example, when they're selling a property or a deed to a buyer or a seller.

“They have to see original documents, check that they're not fraudulent, haven't been tampered with in any way. They can take out electronic checks to check people's credit histories and how long they've been at the property and that kind of thing.

“I think where there's a shortfall, the easiest thing for people to do actually, whether you're the buyer or the seller, is to carry out your own checks.

  • Peter Ambrose

    Having witnessed the trauma of this first hand with a client, it really is time that law firms grasped the nettle and scrapped the use of email with clients.

    While clients still have the expectation that they will be receiving emails from their lawyers, this is still a huge risk.

    We have been using a portal since 2016, and have had multiple occasions where our clients have had spoofing attempts to steal money and NONE have been successful due to our actions.


    This sounds incredible and very scary. These scammers are becoming more daring and sophisticated in their actions by the day.
    I have to say though that scrapping emails in 2023 seems ludicrous. I'm sure there must be a more simple and secure way of rectifying this potential headache for all concerned.....

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    Scrap emails?
    - Lets get heads together, there will be a better solution - it just needs to be found.

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    Lawyers have been making a habit of calling to confirm bank details on invoices before committing to paying the agents fee. Its quite simple for the buyer to do the same and it should be made mandatory for the buyer to call the lawyer to confirm their bank details prior to sending deposit monies. In the overall scheme of things, this should be a quick and simple step for the buyer.


    If an email with bank account details can fool a buyer into transferring their life-savings to a scammer, what difference do you think it would make including the scammer's telephone number in the same email and asking the buyer to call them to confirm details...?

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    Sounds like a simply solution to me. Better than outlawing emails

  • Bernard Brandon

    Very simple solution has existed since 2010 but lawyers for some strange reason are incredibly slow to adopt technology
    I designed and my program are built some online web pages including internal email so if the clients wanted to know what's happening in fact we used to send them test alerts or wanted to access their file for any other reason or as here wanted to send an important message then all they are to do was log in avoiding traditional email I left the profession 13 years ago comments please from you sleepy heads?

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    Good grief; was this article written by like sort of, actual 4 yr olds, like?


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