Following on from our article earlier this month, property fraud continues to be a major issue in conveyancing transactions and the fraudsters are not slowing down in their attempts to de-fraud innocent homeowners, who have spent their lives investing in the creation of a family home and working towards paying off their mortgages.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), who regulate solicitors, state on their website:
“There are serious and continuing risks to the public arising from the activities of criminals and criminal gangs who are setting up bogus law firms or bogus branch offices of genuine law firms…”
All property owners are therefore at risk from scammers and should be vigilant and take necessary precautions when choosing a solicitor to act for them.
What can you do
As a client you are not expected to be a criminal investigator however, there are certain precautions you can take to protect yourself, and your property, when choosing a solicitor to act for you when either selling or buying a property. The following list provides some guidance on the considerations you may want to take into account:
If the firm is not local or known to you are you able to verify them, can you visit the offices? Did someone recommend you use them? Can they confirm they have met the solicitors, been to the offices etc.
Look out for errors or typos in any correspondence, letters, email footers etc. or on the firms website. Could the website be a fake?
Is the solicitor pressurising you to use them or asking you to make any urgent payments to them for unexplained or tenuous reasons?
Does the solicitor have a landline and not just a mobile phone?
If the firm has multiple offices is the office you are dealing with registered on The Law Society’s website http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/
Is both the firm and solicitor you are looking to instruct listed on The Law Society’s find a solicitor page?
It is a criminal offence for somone to call themselves a solicitors if they are not. All solicitors are required to be entered onto the “roll of solicitors” and can be verified on the Law Society’s find a solicitor page.
Other Party’s Solicitors
Even if you have chosen a solicitor who is genuine, there is also the risk that the other sides solicitor (i.e. if you are buying, the sellers solicitor) could be a fraudster. We would therefore advise that you ask your solicitor to explain the checks they carry out on the solicitors acting on the other side.
If you have any concerns or would like further information please contact us.
Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in thisarticle is accurate and correct, the information provided does not constitute any form of advice, recommendation or opinion. DPM Legal Services Limited accepts no liability for any loss or damage, howsoever caused, as a result of any reliance on any information provided.