A deposit scam operated by online fraudsters is a growing problem with crimes reported to be on average around £120,000.

Homebuyers and Tenants are vulnerable to the scam and Estate agent Chestertons has been so concerned about the crimes that it has produced a guide to avoiding cybercrime during a property transaction

Chestertons has warned that these scams can hit private tenants waiting to sign tenancy agreements when they are asked to pay deposits and advance rent.

The scam is committed, Police believe, by hacking into the email correspondence between vendors, buyers, solicitors, estate and letting agents and is most likely perpetrated by foreign crime syndicates.

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These fraudsters are then able to send authentic-looking emails, often on the day of a sale completion, informing the buyer or the buyer’s solicitor to transfer money to a different bank account. Once transferred, the money is quickly removed.

It has even be known for the criminals to also hijack a victim’s mobile on landline phone number, so that when checks are made it is the criminal that is contacted for verification of the transfer.

Action Fraud has reported 91 incidences of these cases up to October last 2015. September and October 2015 produced 16 reported scam fraud cases.

The Deputy Head of Action Fraud, Steve Proffitt, comments:

“We are getting more and more instances of this. The outcome for the fraudster is tremendous. They can earn £1m on the sale of a house in the South East.”

Chestertons warns that cyber criminals are very much aware of the timescales involved when buying homes and they know when deposits, including tenancy deposits, are likely to be transferred.

Chestertons says:

“You should be careful about how much information you share, especially if there is no pre-existing relationship with the firm that you’re contacting.”

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