Almost 120 cyber-scam warnings over the interception of payments between prospective home buyers and their solicitors have been issued over the past three years to the Law Society of Northern Ireland.
As a result, the organisation is launching a new awareness campaign to prevent transfer scams tomorrow. The society hopes its latest awareness ‘Call, Check and Confirm’ campaign will thwart fraudsters by providing information and simple instructions to home buyers.
Transfer scams occur when the borrower transfers the deposit or other payments in connection with their house purchase to their solicitor, but during this process the money is intercepted and stolen. This has consequently resulted in the loss of significant amounts of money for new home owners- with many never recovering their money.
118 transfer scam alerts were sent out to Law Society members between 2015 and September this year, with the organisation issuing 25 this year so far.
A spokesman for the Law Society explained its own scam alert relies on legal firms sharing information, and reports both successful and unsuccessful scams involving ransomware, phishing and mail-forwarding emails as well as bogus phone calls to the organisation.
He added that the society shares this information to all solicitor firms via the society’s ‘Scam Alert’ e-zine, in addition to communication platforms including the society’s website and social media accounts.
Alan Reid from the Law Society said: “Our simple message to home buyers is that it is very unusual for a solicitor’s firm to change its bank account details in the course of a conveyancing transaction.
“So if you receive an unexpected email apparently coming from your solicitor asking you to lodge money or a deposit into a new bank account, simply call your solicitor, check with them and confirm that it is genuine.”
He also stressed the importance of not sharing bank account details via email as it provides an opportunity for criminals to intercept communications.