Don’t let cybercrime catch you out

As conveyancing has become increasingly digital, criminals are targeting law firms more than ever.

Picture of laptop and iPhone symbolising cybercrime

We’ve all heard of cybercrime, or crimes that take place by means of computers or the internet. In recent years, however, it is increasingly likely that you know somebody that has been targeted. In most cases, the damages are financial: in July 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reported that £20 million of client money was lost to cybercrime across two years.

Cyber criminals work in increasingly sophisticated ways: cloning client emails, capturing email, telephonic and banking information, capturing personal information (such as to ‘sell’ properties they don’t even own) and intercepting emails and transactions to redirect funds to their own bank account.

How are you exposed to cybercrime?

As scams become ever more subtle, it is essential that law firms are vigilant and in order to reduce the risk. Some of the criminals’ methods include implementing malware, using phishing emails and voice messages (‘vishing’) to elicit information, email modification fraud and identity theft.

For example: your solicitor emails you their firm’s bank account details in order to transfer deposit or completion monies. The fraudster intercepts that email and changes the bank account details to the fraudster’s account details. The email still looks like your solicitor’s email that you have been expecting; it’s just the information in the email has changed. You then find you have sent your money to an unknown account and your money has disappeared.  The SRA states that email modification fraud accounts for more than 70% of all frauds reported to them.

Don’t panic! How to avoid cybercrime.

The best protection is to simply be aware of the increasing types of frauds and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your property.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Our residential team would be happy to help. Ensure the law firm you instruct have systems and policies in place to reduce the risk of such attacks and that they continually conduct and evaluate their due diligence into each matter. They should also include utilising specialised organisations in order to verify solicitors’ account details. A firm should only send their bank account details to you in the post or handed to you in person. They should not be sent to you electronically unless you can independently verify that information.

As a client, you should also remain vigilant.

Question anything that doesn’t seem right. Where possible, meet your solicitor in person, avoid sending any sensitive information by email and confirm the source of any request before transferring money. You should also ensure your system and anti-virus software are up to date on your computers and devices.  Remember, as with any scam, awareness is key! Understand the steps you and your solicitor can take together to protect yourself and reduce any risk.

This article was written by Ema Bryn Jones

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only and reflection the position at time of posting. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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