A homebuyer was scammed into handing over £640,000 to criminals after emails to their solicitor were intercepted, the Law Society has revealed in a new campaign against payment diversion fraud. 

Chancery Lane has joined forces with the National Economic Crime Centre, housed within the National Crime Agency, and Action Fraud to issue flyers warning of the risk of payment diversion.

In the £640,000 example, the Society said criminals intercepted emails between the buyer and the buyer’s solicitor. They created an email account made to look like that of the solicitor to request payment. Payment details were provided on headed paper via the spoofed email, and the amount requested was exactly what the buyer had expected to pay.

The buyer was later advised by their solicitor that the payments had not been requested. Most of the money was never recovered and the purchase collapsed.

Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘Buyers should be extremely vigilant if there appears to be any change of payment details, and always double-check by calling their lawyer before they transfer their money, as emails can be intercepted or diverted.’

Jon Shilland, fraud threat lead at the National Economic Crime Centre, said: ‘Whenever a client is making a payment to their solicitor for a house purchase, they should be highly suspicious of any change in account details or new instructions. Remind them to always check with a trusted known contact, and if they have any doubt not to transfer the money.’