Conveyancing no longer ‘Safe as Houses’

Conveyancing no longer ‘Safe as Houses’

The latest SRA Risk Outlook reiterated the threat of fraudsters for a second time this year; the banging of the bogus firm drum is getting louder. More and more law firms are implementing risk management strategies and processes to combat the criminal conveyancer.

Walker Morris’ Banking Litigation specialist Alasdair Urwin explains how to best mitigate and minimise the latest fraud risk of which lenders, borrowers, conveyancers and the general public should be aware.

Combating conveyancing cybercrime

So, what can be done to minimise the risks? Alasdair offers his expertise and top tips:

  1. Clients should be advised of the risks. It will always be in the clients’ interests to avoid fraud and if they are alive to the risks they can help. Furthermore, all bank account-holding clients will be subject to obligations not to write down or tell others their passwords or PINs and to the general obligation to take care of their account details. A failure to take care on the part of the client could ultimately jeopardise any subsequent compensation claim.
  2. Where possible, meet and speak, rather than always communicating by e-mail. This can be particularly valuable when it comes to undertaking initial ID/anti-money laundering checks and providing or exchanging sensitive personal or financial information, documents and bank account details. Be extremely cautious of giving any sensitive information electronically.
  3. Parties can be asked to provide, at the outset of a conveyancing transaction, copies of bank statements for the destination accounts into which completion monies will be paid. Dormant or otherwise unusual-looking accounts should be treated with caution.
  4. Lawyer Checker can be used to verify solicitors’ accounts.
  5. Buyers and sellers should specifically advise at the outset that they will not be changing their bank account during the transaction or prior to completion.
  6. Bank account details should be confirmed in person or on the telephone. This should include asking security questions to which only the genuine party or solicitor would know the answer.
  7. Any instructions that are given to change bank account or payment details should be treated with the utmost caution, investigated thoroughly and ideally confirmed in person.
  8. Where time allows, corresponding via letters and faxes might be more secure than using e-mail.
  9. Where electronic communication is essential, encypted e-mails and password protected portals offer a much greater level of data security.
  10. All IT and communication devices should be properly protected with adequate security software, which is updated regularly.
  11. Legal and financial firms dealing in conveyancing transactions should have clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with the risk of fraud. All staff involved with any stage of the conveyancing process should be made aware of the risks and trained on the firm’s policies and safeguards.
  12. If you do find yourself a victim of this type of fraud you should immediately notify the police. They may be able to recover some of the stolen monies and potentially take action against the fraudsters.
  13. In addition, you should seek immediate specialist legal advice. Walker Morris’ Banking Litigation team has significant expertise in fraud claims and would, if necessary, be able to urgently initiate a freezing injunction to try to preserve stolen monies in the fraudsters’ bank account(s) and to pursue tracing claims and civil action to recover lost funds.

WM Comment

As professional and regulatory requirements for ascertaining the identity of clients have become increasingly rigorous, not least within the financial and legal sectors, so fraud techniques have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated. With the rise of e-conveyancing and a decline in face-to-face dealings, this trend looks set to continue. Unless firms and institutions engaging in real estate transactions take urgent and adequate action, it seems that they and their professional indemnity insurance policies – not to mention their clients – are highly vulnerable.

If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to conveyancing fraud or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact Alasdair Urwin or any member of Walker Morris’ Litigation and Dispute Resolution team.

To learn more about how Lawyer Checker can help you combat the criminal conveyance and discuss your risk management processes please call 0800 133 7127.

This article was submitted to be published by Lawyer Checker as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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Provider of market-leading risk management solutions to the legal sector.

Lawyer Checker is a leading provider of risk management solutions to the legal sector, offering a full inclusive suite of products and services which have one thing in common – they are all designed to protect and to promote your firm.

Our expert understanding of the legal sector means that we are in a unique position to ensure that your business is protected from the main threats without delay.

We are committed to being proactive when it comes to caring for our clients, and to getting them onto a platform where they are safer.

What does Lawyer Checker do?

Our suite of fraud prevention and cyber security products include:

Thirdfort

Thirdfort is the latest in Lawyer Checker's innovative suite of products helping to defend law firms against the persistent threats lurking in the legal sector, by providing enhanced due diligence to source of funds and ID checks. It uses a mobile app to digitally confirm a client's identity by combining facial recognition technology with document scanning and open banking, enabling you to confidently “Know Your Customer." Find out more >

Account and Entity Screen (AES)

AES provides your firm with enhanced risk management when transferring funds by checking the accounts details of a solicitor you are sending funds to against our unique database. This ensures your client funds are sent to a legitimate bank account associated with the vendor’s conveyancing firm. Find out more >

Consumer Bank Account Checker (CBAC)

CBAC offers enhanced due diligence when remitting sales proceeds and balancing payments to consumers. It works by validating the source and destination of funds by checking the bank account details match your client’s personal details when sending or receiving client funds. Find out more >

OnDMARC

A vital layer in protecting against email modification fraud, OnDMARC can actively block phishing attacks and obstruct 3rd parties impersonating your email domain to any recipient such as your clients, suppliers or employees. Email fraud is a law firm’s biggest risk. To avoid sensitive data being stolen through email impersonation fraud, safeguard your firm by implementing OnDMARC, otherwise anyone can send an email directly to your customers, suppliers or employees pretending to be you. Find out more >

Cyber Certifications

The National Centre for Cyber Security has identified the legal sector as a top target for cyber criminals. The sensitive data, large sums of money and important information that is held needs protecting to avoid severe damage to clients and your reputation.

Cyber Essentials

Cyber Essentials is a ‘must have’ certification for law firms which will protect your business, prevents data breaches and highlights to your customers, your regulators, the ICO and cyber criminals that you take cyber security seriously and shows you have taken the recommended steps to secure yourselves from potential threats. Getting Cyber Essentials certification for your firm is quick and easy, our in-house expert Cyber Essentials Assessors at Lawyer Checker (Part of Practical Vision Network) can conduct your online assessment and issue your certificate in less than 48hrs. For only £350 plus VAT it will give you peace of mind that you have shielded your law firm from cyber risk.

Cyber Essentials Plus

Our professional in-house assessors can issue official certificates to compliant firms for Cyber Essentials Plus, which is the next step up from Cyber Essentials. It covers the same controls but this time it is independently verified by a site visit from our expert assessor who will carry out a thorough inspection of online devices and web hosts through a detailed network vulnerability scan and certify your security arrangements to Cyber Essentials Plus level.

IASME Governance

Our expert in-house assessors can issue official certificates to compliant firms for IASME which includes Cyber Essentials certification along with a GDPR readiness assessment. It signifies to your customers and shareholders that you consider data protection a priority, and your desire to manage risk by demonstrating a high level of security. This certification is particularly suitable for businesses that are working towards ISO27001 and want a stepping stone, or for those that want to align to ISO27001 but perhaps don’t have the budget to go to a full certification.

ISO 27001

Our expert in-house consultants will help your firm prepare for ISO 27001 certification audits. It is internationally recognised as the most comprehensive and detailed accreditation to help embed a healthy security culture within your business. The consultation focuses on all business areas and not just the IT department. Our execution experts can work with you to implement ISO27001 in a way that works for your business and can provide as much or as little support as you need from project plans, document templates to full implementation. Our professional assessors can even help you to book and prepare for your certification audits.

To safeguard your business, use Lawyer Checker’s comprehensive products and services to arm you and your law firm with the right tools and information to be able to obtain the assurances you need to act in the best interests of your clients.

Key contacts:

Heidi Jenkins
Key Relationship Manager at the Practical Vision Network including Lawyer Checker, Solve Legal Marketing and The Move Exchange.
M: 0330 052 7588 E: [email protected]

Mark Siwiec
Business Development Manager (Cyber) at the Practical Vision Network including Lawyer Checker, Solve Legal Marketing and The Move Exchange.
M: 03300529150 E: [email protected]

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