Northern Ireland news

Home buyers tricked into transferring deposits to phony solicitors account

The scammers replicate solicitors' email accounts to send a last minute request to house buyers transfer their deposit money to a new bank account which is actually controlled by the fraudsters. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

FRAUDSTERS have stolen "significant amounts of money" from Northern Ireland home buyers by tricking them into transferring their deposits to a phony solicitors account.

The sophisticated new scam which targets both solicitors and their clients has seen people lose out on their dream homes because they cannot get their money back.

The scammers replicate solicitors' email accounts to send a last minute request to house buyers transfer their deposit money to a new bank account which is actually controlled by the fraudster.

Neither the client or lawyer are aware of the fraud until after the money has been sent - in some cases tens of thousands of pounds.

The Law Society of Northern Ireland said yesterday "in many instances, the money stolen from the client and the solicitor firm is never recovered and this has a huge impact on all parties concerned".

Without their deposits the sale cannot be completed and buyers must start again saving the money from scratch.

It comes as a time of intensified activity in Northern Ireland's housing market after the lockdown-enforced pause between March and June 2020 caused a build up of demand.

A Law Society spokesman warned everyone currently buying a house to be "extremely vigilant".

"We are aware of reports in which clients have lost significant amounts of money," he said, describing it as a "sophistication level of fraud".

Rowan White, Law Society president, said people should always `Call, Check and Confirm' when transferring money, "especially if the person receives an email or phone call informing them of a last-minute change in bank details".

"Call the person or solicitor known to you using recognised phone number, check if they sent you an email regarding a last-minute change in bank details and confirm the right bank details with the person.

"Never transfer your money without checking with all parties concerned."

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