The number of so-called ‘Friday afternoon frauds’, targeting law firms and their clients with a particular focus on property completions, is continuing to rise and becoming more sophisticated.
In one recent case, a house buyer lost £75,000 after receiving an email, purporting to come from his solicitor. The fake message said the firm couldn’t accept certain types of payments into the bank account he had previously used so requested payment to complete the purchase into a different bank account entirely. In another, a City hedge fund was conned out of nearly three quarters of a million pounds.
Other recent cases have involved people arranging for building work to be carried out by companies they are in email correspondence with. So when they get a request for payment by email it doesn’t arouse suspicion. But while it looks authentic and is for the right amount, behind the scenes the email account of either the victim or the business has been hacked, and the bank account number and sort code are the conman’s.
While these types of scams are by no means new, the technology and methods cyber-criminals are using are getting more and more sophisticated.
In previous cases where fake email addresses have been used, these have been subtly different to the real address (e.g. fbcmb.com rather than fbcmb.co.uk). In the case above, the email purporting to come from the law firm in question was a mirror image of the true email address.
The Faster Payment system allows payments of up to £250,000 to be processed instantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means by the time anyone becomes aware of the crime, funds have already been moved out of the original account by the cyber-criminal before a bank can freeze the money. In most cases banks won’t take any responsibility for money stolen in this way.
To protect yourself and your money:
• Always check banking details carefully before sending any money online – your bank is not required to check that the account details match the name on the account.
• If in doubt, see or speak to the person you believe has requested the funds to verify the information and account details.
• Never click on unknown links in emails. Remember, your bank will not ask you to verify your own account details by email. If you receive a phone call claiming to be from your bank asking for verification of your details, hang up and use a different phone to ring your bank directly. Do not use the same phone – criminals can keep lines open as part of the con.
FBC Manby Bowdler will:
• Never tell you by email that our account details are changing during the course of your transaction. If you receive any communication suggesting that our account details have changed, you should speak to your regular contact using the telephone number that appears on our website and letters. Do not rely on contact details on an email if you are unsure.
• Always confirm your account details with you in person or by telephone before sending money to you. If someone you don’t recognise contacts you, don’t be afraid to contact someone else within the firm who you do know.
• Always ask you for proof if we receive a request to change the bank details you want us to send your money to on completion of your transaction. We may ask you to send us a letter or confirm the details in person by original bank statements.
• Always take steps to ensure that when sending money to firms of solicitors to complete your transaction that these details have been independently verified.
Taking steps to prevent such crime in the first place is something we take very seriously and we advise all our clients to do the same.
For any Commercial property enquiries, contact Alison Price on 01902 702039 or firstname.lastname@example.org