On the 15th July the Law Society Gazette ran a report on identity theft where they stated:
“Saydia Iqbal, a partner at Bolton firm SK Solicitors, said a group or individual has been fraudulently using her name and her firm’s name and correspondence address to conduct property transactions. The fraudsters have changed the email, telephone and fax details on the letters they have sent out.”
Subsequently Alan Riley of Property PSL has pointed out how easy it is copy fake headed note paper and that checking the Solicitor Regulatory Authority web site may not be sufficient to avoid being the victim of fraud.
He points out that The Law Society Practice Note on Mortgage Fraud warns that “Some fraudsters will try to assume the identity of professionals who actually exist. You should check that both the details and the final destination of documents match the details in the directory. You may consider contacting the firm directly by the contact details on the registry if you have concerns about the bona fides of the representatives on the other side to the transaction, particularly if there is a last minute change of representative.”
Alan goes on to say “Conveyancers should also be particularly vigilant in relation to email addresses that appear at odds with the firm’s name. Questions should be raised where a conveyancer uses a commercial email account (e.g. hotmail, yahoo, btinternet) that is not associated with the firm’s domain name, or name generally.”
So we thought we would set out a few tips:-
1) Case Inception: Does your case creation processes include a risk management step to check the validity of the conveyancer on the other side. If not at case creation but at notification of sale.
2) Validity of Conveyancer:
a. check the SRA site or the CLC directory,
b. check the internet. A yell or google search may help you to validate the existence of the firm.
c. if the firm is a limited entity check Companies House and be wary of newly created firms.
d. match names, addresses and telephone numbers. Be more wary of branch offices, PO Boxes, non commercial email addresses (hotmail etc)
3) Maintain a safe list: Storing and maintaining a list of conveyancers within a case management system will reduce the burden of this process.
4) Train staff: train staff and give them laminated reminder sheets.
5) Anti-Money Laundering Obligations — whilst many firms think about anti money laundering processes for clients think about your obligations to report when the professional on the other side concerns you.
For further information please contact [email protected]
or call Chris Harris on 07983 485490.