Whether you’re buying or selling a property, it helps to be aware of the rising property scams and how you can seek protection with the assistance of an experienced conveyancing solicitor.
For many, undertaking a property transaction is an exciting experience and a significant event in their lives. However, tackling the process alone can be rather daunting, especially with the various potential risks and increasingly the issues surrounding property fraud including the “home hijacking” scams. The scams involve criminals posing as the property owners or the sellers. Research conducted by the Land Registry revealed that £24.9 million was lost through property hijacking scams in 2017. Even though there have been efforts to raise awareness of fraud within the property industry, these figures have continued to increase. In today’s digital age, cybercriminals have garnered new hacking methods to take advantage of the conveyancing process that involves large amounts of money and target homeowners who are under the stress of buying a home.
At Romain Coleman, our specialist landlord and conveyancing solicitors have had years of experience successfully assisting clients with the conveyancing process. We take proactive steps to protect your personal details and finances. We work with you every step of the way, offering clear and jargon-free explanations, so that you are never left in the dark.
The term conveyancing refers to the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer. This multi-step process begins when the offer on the property is accepted and ends when the buyer receives the keys to the property.
Every property purchase must go through the conveyancing process, which involves:
It is possible for the buyer and the seller to negotiate the size of the deposit, but it is usually 10% of the value of the property. Please note that even if the buyer agrees to pay less than 10%, they are still liable for 10% of the property if they later decide to pull out. This means that if they pay an 8% deposit and decide to cease buying the property, the buyer will lose their deposit and be legally required to pay an additional 2% of the value of the property.
Referred to as a transfer scam, this illegal action takes place when the buyer of the property is transferring the deposit to their solicitor. During this process, the fraudster will divert and steal the money, transferring it to various accounts, most commonly overseas. First-time buyers who are not accustomed to the conveyancing process or are not aware of such scams are often the main target.
Cybercriminals can effectively achieve this scam by hacking into emails between solicitors and property buyers. They will then seek out a victim, and remain low until just before completion when the payment for the property is required to complete the process. At this stage, they will send out a fake email, which appears authentic, explaining how the solicitor’s bank account details have changed. After the buyer has transferred the money into the fraudulent account, the criminal will swiftly empty and shut down the account before the buyer realises anything.
Hiring an experienced landlord and conveyancing solicitor is an essential step to protecting yourself throughout the conveyancing process and ensuring that your data and finances are not at risk. It also helps to be aware of the most common signs of email scams, which include:
Although it is possible for you to undergo the process of conveyancing independently, it is highly recommended that you hire a solicitor to assist and oversee the entire process. Given the legal intricacies, complicated jargon and the numerous steps required, navigating the path of conveyancing alone can be stressful and time-consuming. Without an experienced expert by your side, you are also more at risk of falling prey to fraud. Our specialist landlord and conveyancing solicitors are here working with you, keeping you up-to-date with every action and explaining every area of property law.
This article was first written in 2016 and was updated on 28/08/2019.
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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.