So-called ‘Friday afternoon’ scammers are hitting conveyancers as they work under pressure to complete sales.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority says it is getting four reports a month of the fraud, which results in large amounts of money being stolen from client accounts.
In November, four firms collectively had £2m taken after falling victim.
The scammers work in various increasingly sophisticated ways.
They might send an unsolicited email to the target firms, resulting in malicious software being downloaded. This enables them to intercept emails and replace them with their own, in a bid to divert money into their own accounts.
On two occasions, these email intercepts have been followed by telephone calls from the crooks pretending to be from the bank’s anti-fraud team.
According to the Law Gazette, on other occasions the law firms have been called and asked for verification of a specific electronic transaction, with the callers saying they suspect fraudulent transactions have been set up. The scammer then asks the firm to confirm its online security information.
Angus Ogg, a Professional Indemnity insurance underwriter, said: “We’re not the only ones who have picked up these claims.
“We know of other insurers whose solicitor clients have suffered the same fate. It’s the Friday afternoon scam – they do it at that time because that’s when conveyancing transactions are completed. The firms come back on Monday and there’s nothing left in the account.”
The link to the Law Gazette story is here
But perhaps the most interesting thing about the report is the comments. Why, asks one person, does everyone want to exchange contracts and to complete one week later? And why is completion always on a Friday – “One week off work is pretty well inevitable, so why insist on a Friday?”
Why, asks another, are there so many exchanges and completions within the same week? This one also accuses estate agents of “harassing everyone in the chain”.
That draws the comment: “ … the whole process revolves round estate agents’ commission and the client wanting to push the biggest commitment of their life through early because of the impending family holiday. I often wondered why is there such ill-thought out pressure, who creates it and for whose benefit ?
“The whole heart attack is then ratcheted up dealing with our old friends the banks, insisting they have not had your 6 faxes requesting a redemption statement (failing, in the year 2015 to give secure online access to obtain it yourself) and the disaster that is hoping funds will arrive.
“ALL estate agents and banking staff should be required to have some experience of the realities of conveyancing.
“If everyone understands the process and can see what other people have to do, it can only help.”
And to think that the usual complaint about Friday afternoons was that you could never get hold of the solicitor because he was always out on the golf course!