‘I spent 10 years saving for first home then had £227k stolen from my account’

With two quick transfers, one man lost $274,311.57 (around £227,000) to scammers who impersonated his property conveyancers.

Simon Elvins and his wife had spent 10 years saving for their first home and were excited to have finally reached the end.

He was sent an invoice for the deposit of the property and sent it on two different occasions.

On May 5 and 8, he sent the money and waited. After a few days, he had not heard back, so he emailed the conveyancers.

After speaking with the lawyers and estate agent, Mr Elvins was devastated to realise he had lost his home deposit.

Scammers had intercepted the email, changed the account details on the invoice and stolen his deposit.

Mr Elvins and his wife had fallen victim to a payment redirection scam, where a criminal impersonates a business or its employees via email and asks them to make a payment to an account the criminal controls, The Guardian reported.

He said: “We were just emailing back and forth, and then we get an email saying, ‘This is the account you need to pay the money into’,”

“I had quite a reasonable relationship with the conveyancers. So I just didn’t think anything of it … It was getting close to completion. I just paid it. There was no warning to ring them before I pay.”

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Over £1.2 billion was stolen by criminals through authorised and unauthorised fraud in 2022, equivalent to over £2,300 every minute, UK Finance reported.

Conveyancing scams can have a devastating impact, with some losing their deposits and, in some cases, causing the purchase of their home to fall through.

Mr Elvins and his wife had already paid $110,000 (around £90,000), a 10 percent deposit to the real estate agent, so have been able to keep their house. But they are wrestling with a larger mortgage than they had hoped.

He said: “Financially, we’ve been crippled. The onus is on the customer to go and do all these checks – the scammers are very sophisticated.

“I can’t see anywhere where the banks are being held accountable.”

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The experts at ‘takefivetostopfraud’ explained how people can spot a conveyancing scam like what the Elvins went through.

  1. “You are contacted by someone who claims to be your lawyer or solicitor advising you that the sort code and account number where you need to pay your deposit has been changed.
  2. “You are contacted by your lawyer or solicitor on a different email address to the one you usually communicate through. You may even receive a call from someone purporting to represent your firm requesting a payment.
  3. “You are put under pressure to make a payment urgently or risk your property purchase falling through.”

If someone believes they’ve fallen for a scam, they are urged to contact their bank immediately on a number they know to be correct, such as the one listed on their statement, their website or on the back of their debit or credit card.

People can also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. 

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