Cybercrime leads to increase in conveyancing fraud

An increasing number of cybercriminals are targeting the conveyancing sector, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The SRA has said that 75 per cent of all ‘cybercrime’ reports received from solicitors and legal firms in the 12 months to December 2016 involved some form of ‘conveyancing fraud’.

‘Conveyancing fraud’, sometimes known as ‘Friday afternoon fraud’, involves hackers commandeering email communications between homebuyers and conveyancers and requesting payments into hacker-controlled bank accounts.

According to the SRA, clients and homebuyers have lost approximately £7million due to conveyancing fraud within the last year.

The SRA claims that as many as a quarter of legal firms have been targeted by such attacks, with nearly one in ten resulting in money being stolen.

SRA Chief Executive, Paul Philip, is calling upon solicitors, conveyancers and legal firms to inform the regulator immediately if they lose any client money or information to hackers.

He said: “Cybercrime is now the most prevalent crime in the UK. Cybercriminals are not just after money but sensitive information, so law firms are an obvious target.

“It is the job of firms to take steps to protect themselves and their clients’ money. That means training staff and staying vigilant, as well as maintaining up to date technology protections”.

He added: “Conveyancing fraud can see people lose their life-savings. We also want to see firms making sure their clients are aware of the risks. For instance, we would recommend that people avoid sharing bank details over email, or transferring money before confirming the source of any request.”

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