Cyber crooks have been raking in thousands in online house deposit fraud | The Crusader | FinanceHeat Profit
Clients in England and Wales lost £7 million in cyber attacks fraud last year, reports claim
But it all came crashing down for Laura Jones and Chris Black last July when £28,556, part of the payment they thought they were transferring via their conveyancing solicitor, was syphoned off by online fraudsters in a sophisticated sting.
After the crushing realisation sunk in, their horror turned to fury. “We’re the ones who have been left to pay a terrible price,” says Chris, who had sent the funds from his bank account to Alireza Nurbakhsh of London-based Oliver Fisher Solicitors.
Clients in England and Wales lost £7 million in cyber attacks on law practices last year, according to national standards body the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), with the majority of scams involving conveyancing.
“Firms must inform the regulator if they lose client money or information, but the problem and size of losses may currently be under-reported,” says the SRA.
“Other research has shown that a quarter of firms have been targeted by cybercriminals, with nearly one in ten resulting in money being stolen.”
The most common is the so-called ‘Friday afternoon’ fraud where criminals modify emails directly, usually by hacking into the email system of an individual or solicitor, then altering details so funds go to the criminal.
Friday is a favourite day as this is when completions often take place and criminals have the extra time over the weekend to avoid detection.
As Chris was sending his and Laura’s completion funds in tranches he received the scam confirmation that typified many described by the SRA.
It directed him to put the remaining settlements in the company’s “alternative client account”.
quarter of firms have been targeted by cyber criminals, with nearly one in ten resulting in money being stolen
The email was identical in address and appearance to all the other communications previously received, he says.
Both Chris and Laura felt the care, that they were owed as clients of an expert and trusted entity, also fell seriously short in other ways.
“If the problem of hacking is so prevalent we want to know why we weren’t warned more clearly,” questioned Laura.
“What’s the harm in making your customer as aware as possible about the risks, including if transferring money in lots is less secure?
“We can’t recall if these points were raised by our solicitor in conversation. The vast majority of contact was by email.
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“While there was a disclaimer beneath his email signature, this was not visible if you were viewing on a mobile phone or a preview pane in Microsoft Outlook.
“Yet since our problem we’ve noticed there is a much more obvious warning on Oliver Fisher emails which might suggest they saw room for improvement.”
When Mr Nurbakhsh responded to Laura and Chris’s complaints he confirmed he had reported the matter to the SRA, sent his regrets and stressed “it is the first time that such an incident happened to this firm”.
The couple went through the proper channels informing their bank and the police – the ones responsible for Investigating the fraud and tracking down the criminals.
One couple paid £28,556, part of the payment they thought they were transferring via their solicitor
But deeply unhappy about their whole experience Chris and Laura also contacted Crusader.
We took expert legal advice and pointed them in the direction of the Legal Ombudsman in regard to issues they had about the care they got from the solicitors.
This free official scheme sorts out complaints about the service people receive from lawyers and claims management companies.
The couple’s families rallied to lend them the missing money to complete their purchase
The couple’s families rallied to lend them the missing money so they could complete their house purchase, but that huge extra debt remains.
“The nightmare continues,” they say and vow to keep pressing for answers
Oliver Fisher Solicitors declined to comment.
The Ombudsman is now Investigating the complaint.