What should clients do to avoid fraud when using solicitors?

05/10/2017

The risk of becoming a victim of scams involving conveyancing transactions and money transfers to solicitors is increasing. Fraudsters purport to be emailing on behalf of an individual within a law firm and send fake emails whereby they steal large sums of money from the client. There are numerous cases of victims losing a large sum of money to these people.

Firstly, when choosing a solicitor check the solicitor has a secure website. The web address should start with HTTPS – the ‘S’ stands for secure. There should also be a padlock on the left-hand side of the browser.

When you are due to send a solicitor money and make a transaction online we would strongly recommend you take the following points into consideration:

1. Make sure you have received a hard copy of the solicitor’s client account bank details. These should be by way of a letter or in the report they produce to you about the property. If you are then subsequently sent the account details by email, cross reference them with what you have been sent before or, ring the firm to confirm the details are correct. NEVER reply directly by email to a suspicious email providing new bank details.

2. When calling to confirm the client account details make sure you call the number you have been using throughout your transaction, obtain this from a letterhead or the firm’s secure website, and speak to someone you have had contact with before. NEVER ring a number given on a suspicious email.

3. Make sure the price referred to is correct. You must be wary of fraud when the solicitor appears to ask for a cheaper price than agreed and it would be advisable to check with your solicitor by phone if this is the case.

4. Be careful when sending emails to your solicitor as your email system is at risk of being hacked especially if you are using an insecure wifi connection. If your system is hacked, the fraudsters can read your previous correspondence and make their spam email seem even more realistic. Try not to indicate the contents of your email in the subject line, especially when mentioning payment and bank details. NEVER transfer money without speaking to your solicitor to confirm the details.

5. If you receive an email with bank account details always check the email address you are receiving the email from – not just the name of the solicitor/person you are dealing with. You must check the address line is genuine – the differences may be as subtle as a missing or additional letter. Again, it would be advisable to call the solicitor whilst filling out these payment details to check that both yours and theirs are correct.

6. You do not have to make a full payment straight away, therefore if you have any concerns it would be advisable to make a very small first payment before sending the main balance after you have spoken to the solicitor to make sure the first amount has been received.

7. Law firms are unlikely to change their client account bank details and inform you by email. If you were to receive an email purporting to a change in client account details you should telephone your solicitor to double check if that is the case and confirm the account details.

Your solicitor may also take steps to check your bank account details when sending you money. They should require the bank account details of where you would like funds to be sent in writing and signed by you. Most solicitors will also telephone you prior to submitting funds to your account as a final check, bear with them it is best to be cautious in the current cyberspace world!

If you require any assistance or have any questions in relation to this article or a conveyancing transaction then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team at our Beaconsfield office on 01494 685588.

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