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Email scam costs home-buyer £46,000

A London woman lost the deposit she had saved for her house purchase when she responded to an email from a scammer purporting to be her solicitor.

When Vivian Gabb received an email that looked like it came from the solicitor handling her house purchase, she followed the instruction to send the deposit to the bank account set out in the email. Some days later it transpired that the email had been a scam. It had not come from her solicitor, but from someone posing as him, and the bank account was nothing to do with the solicitor either. Her email account had been hacked and her messages were being monitored. The scammer had then sent her an email branded to look like an email from her solicitor that contained details of a false bank account that the scammer had set up in the same name as the solicitor’s. It said that the firm had recently changed its bank from the one they had previously told her, and that the funds should now be sent to the new account.

Mrs Gabb has lost her life savings of over £46,700. The money has disappeared from the false account set up by the scammer. Her own bank and the bank used by the scammer have said they will try to trace the money, but as yet Mrs Gabb has no idea whether she will ever see her money again.

The sad facts of the case show the need to be careful when sending money to anyone else’s account. If they have emailed or called you with the account details, always check with the person you know – either by calling them on the number you already have, or preferably speak to them in person.

The Get Safe Online website says 15% of the UK population with email accounts have been victims of attempted email hacking.

When buying a house, always choose a solicitor who has the CQS accreditation badge, and has their own risk and compliance manager. This shows they take all risks very seriously, including email scams and other cyber-crime, and that they will be taking measures to avoid it. Double check the bank details with your solicitor before transferring any money.

For further information about the legal aspects of buying or selling your house, Contact Michael Dibben