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Buying property? Don’t get caught out by a conveyancing scam

An article in the Sunday Times highlights a recent conveyancing scam and the importance of instructing an experienced, local conveyancing solicitor when buying property.

Overview of the article

A couple from London were looking to purchase their first home together and had an offer accepted on a £175,000 property. The couple instructed a Harrogate-based online conveyancing service to handle the purchase. In June this year, the couple’s conveyancer transferred the purchase price of £175,000 to the vendor’s solicitor in order to complete the purchase; however the money was never received by the vendor.

The ‘solicitor’ instructed by the vendor was a fake. And the couple’s own solicitor had not taken the necessary steps to establish whether the ‘solicitor’ was genuine before transferring the money. The couple’s money had been transferred to someone posing as a solicitor, with a fake website using the company name of an antiques dealer ‘MA Manning’. When the couple attempted to get their money back from the fake solicitors bank account, only £47 of the £175,000 remained.

If the couple’s conveyancer had taken steps to check the authenticity of the vendors ‘solicitor’ they would have found that a ‘solicitor’ using the name ‘MA Manning’ had been reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority two months previously. The fake solicitor, and all other reported scams involving fake solicitors and firms are published on the SRA website to allow clients and solicitors to perform checks.

This couple hold their conveyancer responsible for the loss of their money because suitable checks were not carried out to establish the validity of vendor’s solicitor.

How to protect yourself

With the number of scam alerts reported to the SRA increasing, over 53 have been reported so far in 2013 compared with 21 in 2012, it is important to protect yourself when purchasing a property.

  • Ensure you instruct a local, experienced conveyancing solicitor who will protect your interests.
  • Confirm that they will carry out all necessary checks of the vendor’s solicitor, from multiple sources including the SRA and Law Society.
  • Carry out your own checks by visiting the SRA or Law Societywebsite to search for the firm or solicitor.

At Hopkins, we’ve been helping the local community buy and sell property for 100 years and can offer you the service, experience and protection you require.

For more information contact our conveyancing teams in Mansfield or Nottingham.

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