What Is Friday Afternoon Fraud in the World of Conveyancing and Property Law? - PropertyBlawg

What Is Friday Afternoon Fraud in the World of Conveyancing and Property Law?

by PropertyBlawg on October 14, 2023

So, you’ve found your dream home, made and secured the offer and got your mortgage paperwork moving. When the exciting day of completion finally comes around, you’ll be ready to transfer a large sum of money over to your conveyancing solicitor. As with all deposit transactions, you’ll likely check the details, and then check again, before pressing send. Unbeknown to you, you may have just sent all of your money to a fraudster, who has been lying in wait for this moment, and lost your savings and deposit to buy your new home.

Friday Afternoon Fraud Property UK

This kind of fraud is known as Friday Afternoon Fraud and is something which is on the rise, affecting more and more buyers in recent years. Scammers are beginning to find easier ways in which they can target people who are in the process of moving house as these transactions often include large sums of money being sent at one time. They will use methods to trick clients into sending money to them, instead of their solicitors. In one infamous case, a buyer lost close to £67,000 when fraudsters used the email address of their conveyancer to intercept their transaction.

Let’s take a look at what exactly Friday Afternoon Fraud is and how you can avoid this from happening to you in the future.

How Friday Afternoon Fraud Works

Friday Afternoon Fraud, despite the name, can happen any day of the week. It has earned that term due to the fact that most house completions happen on a Friday and this is typically the busiest day for transactions to be completed. Often, victims might not even realise they have been scammed until Monday, giving the scammer plenty of time to move the money, making it more difficult to trace and recover.

This type of fraud involves scammers hacking into either the email account of the buyer or the conveyancer which then allows them to monitor and intercept emails. Then, they will pose as the conveyancer and get in touch with the buyer to provide fake bank details, allowing them to unwillingly transfer the funds to their account.

It is more common for the buyer’s email to be hacked than it is for the conveyancer. In this case, the scammer will create a new email address which is similar to that of the conveyancer and then copy the tone and signature used within previous correspondence.

A Scam That Takes Years To Build

One of the most unnerving facts about Friday Afternoon Fraud is that it isn’t a quick-win scam for the fraudster. It is something that takes quite a while to set up, and in some cases, scammers can be lurking in your emails for months on end, building up the perfect way to scam you of your savings. But, how exactly can this happen?

Well, cyber security experts have found that scammers often set up software which then automatically scans email accounts for certain keywords and phrases such as “house purchase” or “conveyancing”. These searches will likely be carried out frequently and then, once a keyword is found that peaks the fraudster’s interest, they will then begin to start the process of stealing their victim’s money. Scammers can gain access to these email accounts through things such as data leaks, or if the email holder has entered their details on an unsecured website. If a large data leak has occurred, then hackers can use this exposed data in order to gain access to accounts.

Large-scale data breaches have contributed to billions of fields of personal data being stolen and compromised and this information can then find its way onto the dark web or other dodgy online forums.

Protecting Yourself Against Friday Afternoon Fraud

The process of buying a house is a stressful enough process without the worry of falling victim to scammers. In order to protect yourself against Friday Afternoon Fraud, there are certain things which you can do. Before you transfer your funds to your conveyancer, first send a small amount of money to check that the account is the right one and confirm this with your conveyancer. Only send the remainder once you are certain it is the right account.

When you are communicating with your conveyancer, it’s important to be wary of any unsolicited emails and phone calls from people pretending to be your solicitor. This could be scammers looking to confirm certain details if they have been scoping out your emails.

Always be sure to set secure passwords on your email accounts when you are making big and important purchases and decisions and take your time when sending over the payment on completion day. Scammers will have a better chance of success if you make the payment in a rush.

If, in the unfortunate event that you do find yourself falling victim to Friday Afternoon Fraud, then the first thing to do is take a deep breath. Next, speak to your conveyancer and see what support they offer. Then, you can speak to specialist solicitors who deal with this type of online and internet scams and who may be able to trace and recover your lost funds.

Editor’s note: See also our list of some of the top property lawyers in the UK who may be able to help advise you further on some of the legal issues raised within this article above.

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