Our love affair with technology may be putting us in hot water when it comes to dealing with conveyancing solicitors, according to some news reports. Whilst solicitors may on the whole be considered trustworthy by their clients, the dependence on digital technology has led to them being targeted by hackers. There have been a number of recent cases where fraudsters have used personal details to redirect transactions and left both client and solicitor out of pocket.
One recent case of a hacker that obtained the details of a conveyancing solicitor is an example in point. Having fraudulently obtained the relevant details they then contacted the client who was selling their house pretending to be the solicitor, saying that the usual account was being audited and that monies should be transferred into a different one (that of the fraudster).
The hacker had even managed to obtain the client’s unique reference which meant when he questioned it and asked for proof that they were who they said they were, the fraudster was able to produce the right password. It cost the client £300,000 when he transferred over the money to the wrong party. Though he was later reimbursed by the solicitor’s insurance, the prevalence of fraud and hacking attempts means that both parties need to be aware of potential problems, especially when using e-conveyancing.
How to Reduce the Chance of Fraud
- A lot of the problem is that a large portion of conveyancing transactions are carried out by email and these digital communications can be hacked into. With unique verifying IDs everything can now be done electronically which opens both the solicitor and their client to various fraudulent activities from hacking.
- Most reputable conveyancing solicitors will make the client aware of the risks and how to make sure that they don’t open themselves up to hacking. This can include having robust email passwords and ensuring they check on any suspicious activity.
- One solution is to make sure that client and solicitor meet face- to-face as much as possible. This should be done as a matter of course to ensure that there is no ID theft or money laundering activity going and is important particularly when important transactions are being undertaken or sensitive information exchanged, including settling on bank account details.
- Clients should be made aware that if they receive a communication about changed account details that they should immediately inform the police and their conveyancing solicitor.
- If you are dealing with a solicitor for the first time then you should check that they have clear policies in place to stop or significantly reduce the prospect of fraudulent activity and the right strategies for keeping you, the client, safe.
- On the part of conveyancing solicitors, practices should make sure that all their staff are trained and have knowledge of the procedures in place to prevent fraudulent activity and how to spot it.
Unfortunately, as we become more dependent on digital means for doing business, particularly in something as financially sensitive as a house sale, then it presents opportunities to fraudsters to try their luck. Whilst e-Conveyancing may seem a great solution there are dangers inherent in its use and conveyancing solicitors and their clients need to exercise special care.