News reports have warned that homebuyers are being scammed out of thousands of pounds intended for solicitors.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has warned that online payment scams are rising, as fraudsters have been intercepting online payments destined for solicitors’ accounts. One couple, who had saved £45,000 to buy their first home, were victims of the scam after they paid money into a fake Barclays bank account which they thought belonged to a conveyancing firm.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority have confirmed that “in December last year, we reported ten cases of such scams. It is unfortunately really quite common.” The average loss for these reported incidents was £112,310. (Between January 2013 and October 2015, as calculated by the City of London police.)

We urge all of our clients to take great care with online banking security at this time, particularly as scammers are becoming more adept at creating emails that appear genuine. Here are some of the precautions that clients can take to reduce the risk of this happening.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Keep your solicitors’ bank details on file so you can compare all new payments. Regard any change to your solicitor’s bank details with a great deal of suspicion.

  • Ensure that your computer, phone and any other digital devices have adequate protection installed. If criminals are able to hack your device to install malware, they may be able to access your email address.

  • Take care over which websites you enter your personal details into. Consider making a separate email address which you use only for important communications and transactions.

  • Solicitors should not ask for personal data by email. If you are a client and receive an unsolicited email, or anything else that seems suspicious, then call your solicitor immediately to verify that the email has come from them. You may also decline to give out any information by email.

  • When payment details are sent to you through the post or over the telephone, you may call the solicitors to verify the details before making a payment.

Steps to take if you are a victim:

Paul Philip, chief executive, of the SRA, gave guidance on how those who have fallen afoul of this crime may be able to reclaim the money:

“’If it can be found that the solicitors are at fault, if their system has been hacked, if we find that they have failed to take proper measures to protect client’s information or client money, then solicitors indemnity insurance will cover them.

‘Failing that they [the client] can actually come to the SRA and we can consider compensating them for their loss.’”

Information taken from the Solicitors Journal.

Scam alerts can also be found on the SRA homepage here.

If you find yourself a victim of fraud, feel free to get in touch and see how we can help.

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This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice. You should not rely on the information in this article. Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article. Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website. Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.

The contents of this post do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only