As the end of stamp duty vacation looms, homebuyers warned of scams

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Buyers are at risk of being fooled into depositing money into their accounts by fraudsters, says UK Finance.

As criminals target large amounts of money, including house deposits, homebuyers have been advised to take precautions to avoid being scammed during the transaction and after the transfer.

As citizens attempt to secure a new home without having to pay tax, the looming end of the stamp duty exemption has sparked a boom in the property market.

But UK Finance, the finance companies’ association, said customers are at risk of being tricked by fraudsters into putting money into a fraudulent account.

Several incidents of emails being intercepted by lawyers have been confirmed by The Guardian and replaced with new communications containing payment information for accounts owned by fraudsters, including one case in which a homebuyer was fooled into sending more than £ 300,000 to criminals.

According to UK Finance, £16.2 million of personal accounts were lost to scams in the first half of 2020 in which consumers were sent fake emails containing new payment information. Other scams faced by movers include identity fraud, where criminals use letters sent to old addresses to apply for credit or benefits on their behalf.

Katy Worobec, UK Finance’s managing director of white collar crime, told PA Media: “Moving house can be a stressful time, but it is important to remember to take measures that can protect you from fraud.”

“This includes informing your bank and other organizations that you’ve changed your address, making sure your mail is secure and that the recipient’s bank details are correct if you’re paying large sums of money during the home buying process, such as your deposit.”
UK Finance advises customers to look out for emails that purport to contain new payment information or duplicate service invoices from companies they already work with.

There have also been instances of criminals posing as estate agents and demanding personal information, stating that a “refund” will be obtained by the buyer.

Before moving money, the company encourages clients to check payment information over the phone with realtors or lawyers.

Homeowners should ensure that they have informed banks, building societies and other organisations of a change of address in order to prevent identity fraud, and set up a forwarding service to intercept other mail.

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