Agents urgently warned of new scam as fraudsters target their buyers

Agents are being urged to step up their efforts to warn buyers of the possibility of fraud – and to be aware that fraudsters could be hacking into either their own and/or their clients’ and buyers’ email accounts.

In what appears to be an entirely new scam, on Monday a bogus email asking for the transfer of funds was sent to a buyer on the point of exchange – not by the alleged conveyancer, targeted so far in the scam,  but apparently by the bona fide estate agents handling the sale.

The only thing missing from the email was the agent’s logo, a detail unlikely to be noticed by most recipients. The agents concerned have asked not to be named.

Scams involving conveyancing firms have been well documented; however, the convincing use of a fake estate agency email account seems a new tactic and could well fool purchasers into parting with large amounts of money, if they have not been explicitly told where funds should be transferred.

The bogus email from the agents said: “Dear . . . 

“I believe it is now appropriate to request from you the deposit fund as I am delighted to hold the deposit monies strictly to your order until exchange

“Please note that I must receive these funds by bank transfer preferably tomorrow so I can confirm this to the sellers solicitors, as soon as you are ready to make settlement the conveyancing bank details will be sent to you upon request of payment


While the email was made to look as though it had come from the legitimate estate agents, it was queried by the purchaser, a client of Hampshire law firm Warner Goodman.

She checked with the firm’s conveyancer, but said she could well have sent money to the fraudster had she not already been asked for the deposit by Warner Goodman.

Walter Goodman in turn immediately alerted the agent, who said it will from now warn all future buyers.

Warner Goodman partner Sarah Brooks has asked for the issue to be highlighted, so that all estate agents inform buyers that they will never request deposits to be sent to an account, and to tell them they should only ever communicate with the genuine conveyancer handling their case.

Brooks said: “It may be that estate agents are doing this already, but this case was a near miss.”

Rob Hailstone, of Bold Legal Group to which Warner Goodman belongs, has passed on the alert to all other agents.

He said: “Most solicitors and conveyancers are aware of the potential frauds and scams they and their clients can get caught up in if they are not constantly vigilant.

“Emails can be monitored and virtually duplicated in order to divert deposit and or completion funds to bogus accounts.

“Passports and other documents can be obtained or forged to convince the unsuspecting (and sometimes even the suspecting) that the bearers of them own properties they don’t.

“Do many estate agents actually warn buyers and sellers about the threats that exist?”


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  1. AgentV

    Presumably and hopefully the police now have the fraudster in custody after tracking down the account the money was supposed to have been transferred to. It’s worth looking at using a secure email system like ‘egress’….. as this is supposedly almost impossible to hack.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Don’t be silly – the banks actively don’t want to know.

      If they admit that they have been allowing fraudsters to launder money, then the banks become liable.

      A relative of mine with a bit of time on his hands started gathering details of bank accounts used by fraudsters on the online forums.

      His database rapidly grew to tens of thousands of entries, with thousands of separate bank accounts.

      The fraudsters pass the bank accounts freely between each other back and forth.

      You would have thought that giving a several well know large high street banks a sample of the data (with the intention of selling them a constantly updated service) that the first thing they would do is close the accounts down or at least monitor them.

      Did they? Did they heck…

      The police try the best they can, but the real problem is the banks.

  2. DanHareReapit

    Warning clients is one thing. Important to identify where the data breach occurred to obtain the client’s details.

  3. Oliver Wharmby

    Cyber Crime is one of the largest threats to all businesses and should not be ignored. We have been campaigning to raise awareness for the last 18 months and the vast majority of property professionals put their heads in the sand or claim ” We have the most secure firewalls and security available” –  That’s what the US government said before they were hacked! unfortunately, nobody is immune to the threat.

    1. Robert May

      We are the ongoing victims of a cyber attack that has now lasted  over 5 months, someone is trying to stop us documenting the  half hourly portal juggling process that has been used on one property to record 22 exchange of contracts in 24 hours

      Since September we have been escalated to BT’s Chairmans office and cyber crime team, I have the mobile number of our very own special agent who was delighted to receive an update this morning just before 5!

      The biggest danger some agents face is themselves not reading and understanding service agreements with suppliers  authorising unlimited distribution of their data to unspecified third parties.

      Scams only work where there is plausibility. These scammers are getting information of vendors agents and solicitors from somewhere, the obvious thing to assess is  the common link between the cases.

      Decency will catch up with the liars and the cheats, it always does.



  4. Tim Higham

    That is a scary (and crafty) new angle.

    Conveyancers need to immediately warn their buying clients – and always for new clients – not to send any part of the purchase price (or quoted legal fees) to anyone apart from their own conveyancer.

  5. Jon

    Agreed, however as it now seems these fraudsters are starting to target estate agents, perhaps it would be no bad thing for agents also to warn of this danger and advise that they would never ask a buyer for the deposit!!!!!!!


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