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The below information has been supplied to Glanvilles LLP from The Law Society, November 2021.
You may already be aware of phone number spoofing which is used as a means of defrauding clients. The NECC say the following on the matter:
'Spoofing' phone numbers is a tactic offenders will use to defraud victims. This tactic is now being seen used as part of Payment Diversion Fraud in relation to conveyancing (this has been seen in victim reports to police via Action Fraud). Payment diversion fraud is sometimes also known as 'Push Payment Fraud' or 'Authorised Push Payment Fraud'.
Phone number spoofing is where criminals use software so that when phone calls are received, the number comes up different to the one they are calling from and may show as that of a firm of solicitors. Within Payment Diversion Fraud, criminals will then pretend to be solicitors and ask for payments to be made to a bank account that they control, which can result in large losses for home buyers/sellers.
In addition, house moving is often a very busy and stressful time, which means house buyers/sellers may be more susceptible to falling victim to Payment Diversion Fraud.
If house buyers/sellers receive a telephone call from their solicitor, in which they are provided bank details to which payments or transfers should be made, they should follow this advice:
Further fraud prevention advice can be found here: Impersonation Scam Take Five (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk)
A more detailed description of phone number spoofing can be found here: Number spoofing scams - Ofcom
The Law Society would recommend providing the below message to our clients:
"The National Economic Crime Centre, part of the National Crime Agency has asked solicitors to forward the information in the attached leaflet to people buying and selling property to raise awareness of the fraud risks which have become ever more prevalent".
In addition to the property fraud material set out above from the NECC, HMLR would like us to remind you to remind your clients about the Property Alert service. Once clients have registered with this service, especially if they don't live in the property, an email alert is sent each time there is significant activity on a property they are wanting to monitor, such as if a new mortgage is taken out against it. The alert will say the type of activity, who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received.
Once your client has been registered as the owner, you may want to encourage them to use the Property Alert service which they can deal with themselves or they may wish to instruct you to carry this out on their behalf.
See further information from HMLR about the service here.
The above information has been supplied to Glanvilles LLP from The Law Society, November 2021.