Frenzied real estate market exposes buyers’ deposits to scam risk

Even though he made this transaction at a branch of Nationwide, the construction society did not arrest him. “It really was a horrible place,” he said. “The stress was unbelievable, just a sickness in the stomach for the next 48 hours that didn’t go away, and it was hard to stay positive.”

Because he received no fraud warnings, despite saying the money was for a deposit, Nationwide refunded him.

Savers who buy a home usually send large amounts by bank transfer. Although recent developments allow banks to verify that account numbers, sort codes and account names match, this does not help if the fraud victim thinks the details are correct.

When lawyers transfer money to other law firms, they often use a system called Lawyer Checker, a paid service that verifies the authenticity of bank details. Mr Hatton said this should also be used for consumer transactions.

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP and anti-scam campaigner, said more protection should be available for larger purchases. “We are effectively funding the scam industry by allowing this to happen,” he said. Customers should be able to pay their deposit via a card terminal in the notary’s office, he added.

Fraud expert Richard Emery said a central database of bank details, accessible by banks, would be helpful. He also said a 24-hour deadline for large payments could be implemented to provide additional protection for buyers.

A spokesperson for the Law Society, the trade legal body, warned that genuine email accounts could be intercepted or hijacked. “Clients are in particular advised to be extremely vigilant if there appears to be a change in payment details, and to always check by calling their lawyer before transferring money.”

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To read the full article by Sally Solves, click here

Penny D. Jackson