Homebuyers urged to beware ‘Friday afternoon fraud’

by Iain Mason

Published on 10th November 2021

Homebuyers should be extra vigilant as scammers are increasingly targeting the conveyancing process and making off with hundreds of thousands of pounds in what has been dubbed ‘Friday afternoon fraud’.

Friday afternoon fraud occurs at the point where funds are transferred from the buyer to their lawyers, and is so-called because so many transactions complete on a Friday.

Here’s what happens. The buyer receives an email which looks genuine and appears to be from their conveyancer, stating the amount that needs to be transferred and giving bank details.

However, the email is fraudulent, as are the bank details, and the money is then transferred by the unwitting victim into the fraudster’s account instead of their conveyancer’s.

Sadly, at Optimum one of our clients was indirectly affected by this because the fraud happened in another part of the transaction’s chain.  

Our client’s buyers believed that they were transferring their deposit to their lawyer’s account. However, they were victims of a scam, and their money was intercepted. As a consequence, the whole house-buying chain then collapsed.

These frauds are highly sophisticated and increasingly common. The scammers make off with thousands of pounds – in one case, cited by the Law Society, a house buyer was conned out of £640,000, most of which will never be recovered.

By using a busy Friday afternoon before the weekend, the fraudsters also have two days before much investigation can be done, by which time they have covered their tracks.

Our strong advice from Optimum is, when you are buying a house, not to transfer any money, whether deposit or final payment, until you have verified that the bank details you have are correct.

Don’t trust what looks to be a genuine email from your conveyancer, even if it contains all the details you’d expect, including the amount that should be transferred. The fraudsters will have hacked either your account, or your legal adviser’s, to gain this information.

Instead, phone your legal team on a recognised and trusted number, to ensure you have the right bank details, before you make any transfer.

At Optimum, we help clients with the house buying and selling process across Swindon, Cheltenham and the surrounding area. To speak to our expert legal team, please get in touch.

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