Home movers must be wary of ‘Friday afternoon fraud’, says NAPB

People moving home are being warned about a rising risk of falling victim to property fraud scam as “Friday afternoon fraud”.

The crime sees fraudsters targeting house deposit payments in a con that is also known as payment diversion fraud.

It tends to happen on a Friday as victims tend not to discover they have been conned until the following Monday.

Typically, it centres on hacking the email account of the house buyer or the solicitor handling a sale, then impersonating the solicitor before sending fake bank details for the buyer to transfer sale payments or deposit money to.

Jonathan Rolande, from the National Association of Property Buyers, said: “Most property completions actually happen on a Friday. Not only is it a problem, if that kind of money goes missing from the person who’s the victim, but you can imagine there is an incredible incentive for people to commit crime.

“Unfortunately, it’s one of those awful crimes where you only need to be lucky once as the criminal, and you might get hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

The criminals are aided by personal data being sold on the dark web, where hackers buy and sell the account details of millions of people very month.

It has been estimated that some 12.5 billion online accounts shave been breached and are for sale, often complete with passwords.

One check a buyer can make to see if their email address has been exposed in a data breach by looking it up on a website called haveibeenpwned.com.

Rolande said the situation had been worsened by the Covid pandemic: “It’s become a worse situation since things have become remote. Quite often, you’ll never meet your mortgage advisor, you’ll never meet your solicitor, these things are often done in call centres.

“People do play on that little bit more and also, particularly in the last couple of years, as the property market has got so frantic, everyone’s got busy and it may be that certain sort of corners are being cut by estate agents by solicitors, by purchasers or sellers themselves, just to get things done.”

Where a scammer is impersonating a solicitor, he will often use an email address that is almost identical to the genuine address, maybe changed by one character.

There are also reports of scammers phoning home buyers and impersonating a member of the solicitor’s accounts team and providing new bank account details where those deposits are to be paid into.

Rolande is advising buyers to check the bank account details provided at the very start of the process and only use that.

Figures from UK Finance show that, in 2021, some £22.5 million of bank transfer losses via the inter-bank Chaps system.

He added: “The figures in some ways don’t really tell the whole story because there are a lot of robust checks now so people shouldn’t panic nd everyone actually has to play their part with that – everybody involved in the process must really take every precaution that they can to prevent it because it’s just so serious when it happens.

“These are life changing amounts that could potentially be lost for people. Rules, actually, are there already – estate agents, mortgage companies and solicitors all have to take very thorough identity checks, for example, when they’re selling a property or a deed to a buyer or a seller.

“They have to see original documents, check that they’re not fraudulent, haven’t been tampered with in any way. They can take out electronic checks to check people’s credit histories and how long they’ve been at the property and that kind of thing.

“I think where there’s a shortfall, the easiest thing for people to do actually, whether you’re the buyer or the seller, is to carry out your own checks.



Email the story to a friend

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.