A new consumer awareness campaign has been launched, aimed at educating the public about property fraud.
The Home Buyers Safety Campaign is a joint venture between Crimestoppers and the Safe Buyer Scheme, a register of conveyancing organisations using fraud prevention tools.
The most common property con is when a buyer is fooled into thinking they are communicating with their solicitor, when in fact emails have been intercepted. They end up transferring funds into the fraudsters’ bank accounts.
The funds are withdrawn immediately by the fraudster and usually transferred abroad.
Latest statistics provided to the Safe Buyer Scheme by the City of London Police show that this type of fraud is costing home buyers around £16m a year at current levels.
The 2016 Home Moving Trends Report from tmgroup highlighted that only 17% of home buyers consider that transferring funds to their conveyancer is a high-risk situation, evidence that consumers do not understand the threat or the consequences. If they do lose money, the value is likely to be life-changing and banks do not automatically refund sums lost.
Amanda Jackson lost almost £77,000 to a fraudster when purchasing a property for her young family, after selling her former marital home.
On the day she was due to exchange she received an email from her conveyancer advising that the funds were due and that she should transfer it into their Danske account, with the details provided. However, a follow-up email came through shortly afterwards, asking Amanda to transfer her money to a Barclays account, blaming incorrect bank details in the initial email.
She had no reason to suspect that the email was bogus as it appeared to be from her conveyancer, so she went ahead, losing all her money as it was withdrawn from the account almost immediately.
The Home Buyers Safety Campaign has been formulated to raise awareness of the risks of property fraud with the public, and encourage them to select a conveyancer who is equipped with fraud mitigation tools.
Crimestoppers have a dedicated web page for the campaign:
Any agent who would like to help promote the Home Buyer Safety Campaign can email firstname.lastname@example.org