Warning after home buyers tricked into giving scammers up to £640,000

A growing scam which targets house buyers has left victims hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Fraudsters trick people into sending them their deposit or other money intended for purchasing a home, the Law Society warned.

It comes as the phasing out of the stamp duty holiday has seen a surge in sales in recent months, with property professionals often working long hours to help buyers beat the deadline.

The payment diversion fraud ‘almost always’ involves scammers pretending to be the victim’s lawyer to con them into diverting a payment to an account which they control.

‘It can involve huge sums of money and have a devastating lifelong impact on the home buyer and their personal finances,’ warned Law Society president Stephanie Boyce.

In one incident, a victim was tricked into handing over £640,000.

Emails between the buyer and their solicitor had been intercepted by criminals, who were able to collect all the information relating to the house purchase.

They then used a ‘spoofed’ email account to request payment.

Details were provided on headed solicitors’ paper via the spoofed email, and the amount requested was exactly what the buyer had expected to pay.

The victim was later advised by the genuine solicitor that the payments had not been requested. Most of the money was never recovered, all but wiping out the victim’s equity and savings.

Now the Law Society has joined forces with Action Fraud and the National Economic Crime Centre, part of the National Crime Agency, to issue flyers warning of the risk.

‘We are urging our members to share these flyers with their clients in order to help protect them from these highly sophisticated and cruel schemes,’ Ms Boyce added.

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