Crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers has joined the anti-fraud fight as conveyancing firms flock to protect their clients from fraudsters.
The charity this week launched its national consumer fraud awareness campaign in partnership with the commercial crime prevention Safe Buyer Scheme.
The Home Buyers Safety Campaign will raise awareness of property fraud with purchasers and encourage them to choose a firm that has committed to protecting clients from fraud and financial loss.
Currently more than 700 conveyancing firms are registered on the scheme, and Crimestoppers will use its public awareness to direct people to the new campaign, from where consumers are signposted to search for a registered conveyancer.
Roger Critchell, director of operations for Crimestoppers, said: 'We hope that we are raising awareness of fraudsters who look to intercept money during the house buying process, while also asking for the public’s help in trying to reduce the number of incidents.’
Registration on the scheme, run by BE Consultancy, is free but firms can choose to purchase various types of insurance fraud products. Its proprietor check also performs background searches on information provided by the seller and can highlight any areas of concern that the seller may not be the registered owner of the property.
Statistics provided by the City of London Police show that buyer deposit redirection fraud, which occurs when a fraudster impersonates a conveyancer during a property purchase, is costing buyers £16m per year.
According to Land Registry figures, £25m was lost through property hijack in the year to April 2017. Despite increased awareness of fraud within the conveyancing industry, these figures are still increasing each year.
The Law Society provides resources to connect solicitors with the guidance, training and support they need in order to protect themselves against the threat of fraud and scams.
The Conveyancing Quality Scheme, which includes cybersecurity and risk management, is a key part of demonstrating that a conveyancing solicitor has met the highest standards of technical expertise and client services.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: 'Like all businesses operating today, solicitors need to take steps to keep themselves and their clients safe. The solicitor profession do this every day, but must remain constantly vigilant.'