Paragon Mortgages (also referred to as Mortgage Trust) has become the first lender to protect their customers from fraud using the Safe Move Scheme.
In an official statement to their conveyancing panel, Paragon announced: “Paragon has assessed available tools that help reduce the risk to our customers and we now require all our panel conveyancing firms to register with the Safe Move Scheme and use the Safe Buyer product which allows our customers, before they transfer money to their conveyancing firm, to verify the bank account details that they have received are genuine. This will significantly reduce the risk of our customers sending money to a bogus conveyancing firm.”
Paragon added: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to protecting them against this type of crime. We have already asked our panel of conveyancers to register with the Safe Move Scheme so our customers can use the bank validation service. We’re also pleased to announce that we will be funding the cost of Safe Buyer so all our customers can check their conveyancing firm’s bank account details at no cost to them.”
This move comes as a result of lengthy development and testing of the Safe Move Scheme, in collaboration with several lenders who are obliged to protect their customers from fraud. The extent of the issue was exposed when the Safe Move Scheme, for the first time, asked the City of London Police to provide accurate data, collated across England and Wales, to reveal the extent of this specific type of fraud. It shows a dramatic escalation since the first case recorded that can be identified as affecting the conveyance market in July 2013. These figures show that the period between July 2013 and July 2014 saw an average of 1 case reported every 2 months, however in September 2015 (the last month in the latest data set) there were 9 reported cases, representing a 1800% increase. The average loss from buyer deposit redirection fraud is £112,310 and the total losses add up to £10,220,275 from 91 reported cases.
DCI Jason Tunn, Head of the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit announced: “The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) welcomes private industry highlighting crime figures that specifically affect the mortgage and conveyancing market place, which have been contained within ‘mandate fraud’ figures until now. These figures demonstrate a rising crime trend that all stake holders should be made aware of and will assist the public with realising that they may be duped into sending their hard saved money for property deposits to criminals rather than the solicitors. Developing strategies and products with industry stakeholders to prevent these crimes occurring is the way forward, and the MPS Falcon teams are responding to these threats in order to prevent and detect offences.”
Ed Powell, from BE Consultancy, the creators of the Safe Move Scheme, commented: “The Safe Buyer product protects buyers from transferring their purchase deposit money to criminals, a growing problem highlighted in recent high profile cases involving some very well respected and specialist conveyancing firms and validated by the City of London Police crime figures. With 9 cases in September 2015 at an average loss of £112,000 this problem is causing significant harm to lender’s and conveyancer’s customers and is a major threat to every conveyancing businesses.
“In 2015 I was invited to meetings between lenders and conveyancers where lenders collected conveyancer’s feedback on the best way to tackle customer payment fraud targeting buyer’s deposits. These conveyancers liked the Safe Move Scheme solution and asked lenders if they could ‘ensure’ that all conveyancers used the Safe Buyer product to create a level playing field otherwise, in their view, conveyancers who decided to use it would be disadvantaged by the cost of disbursements that others were not.”
In relation to the Paragon statement, Ed continued: “We have received a significant number of applications from conveyancing firms in response to Paragon’s statement and everyone at BE Consultancy looks forward to working with these firms to protect their customers from this and other fraud threats. We are processing applications from firms to join the Safe Move Scheme and will be in touch with each and every one of them to set them up and provide training. We are pleased to announce an extension to our free trial for another month (until 29th Feb 2016) to help firms try Safe Buyer for all their customers, not just Paragon customers.”
The Safe Move Scheme has just announced a partnership with Free2Convey, the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) backed conveyancing portal, which adds new anti-fraud tools and additional secure messaging to Free2Convey’s Chain View, Deal Room and Law Firm Verification features. This partnership will connect LSSA case management systems to the Safe Move Scheme to make it easy for conveyancers to use.
Ed Powell of BE Consultancy, commented: “We are delighted to be partnered with Free2Convey as our solutions fit perfectly together. Free2Convey has successfully accomplished their fresh dynamic vision, whilst the Safe Move Scheme enhances this by providing fraud prevention tools and an additional secure messaging system called Safe Send. Plugging the Safe Move Scheme in to Free2Convey allows law firms to use Safe Buyer without rekeying data and Safe Send messaging to be accessed easily by conveyancing lawyers to keep sensitive information secure.”
Safe Send enhances service delivery by giving customers instant access to all their property transaction messages and attachments in one safe and convenient place.
Safe Send increases reputational integrity to industry professionals by enhancing their information security policy.