Cyber Security and Your Transaction
Your property is probably the most valuable asset you own, so when it comes to buying, selling or re-mortgaging, you need to make sure that your transaction is safe to protect yourself against fraud.
At TWM Solicitors, we are all too aware of the growing threat of cyber related crime and impersonation fraud to both our clients and to our business. We are committed to doing everything we can to assist in helping our clients keep safe. We have prepared this guide for you to outline what you should expect from us at TWM and what you can do to assist us during your transaction to help us both avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
Guidance for you
We will provide you with our bank details in our letter of engagement at the outset of your transaction. These will be sent by post, or often hand-delivered / collected. We will not send our bank details by email, and we never link directly to our internet banking log on page, or to a page that asks for any security or personal details. If you receive bank details by email, the email is likely to be fraudulent, so do not call the number listed in the email. Instead, please call us immediately using a verified landline telephone number i.e. listed on our home page or on ‘Our People’ page on our website.
Whether you are a new client or an existing client, we will generally ask you to bring original documents into one of our offices in person, so that we can carry out an identity check. We will also carry out further electronic antimoney laundering checks via ‘Smart Search’. For purchase transactions, we will ask you for proof of funds – generally, you will be asked to provide your bank statements to show us where your funds are held, and an explanation of how the funds have accrued. Further evidence may be required – providing this at the outset will help to avoid any delays later in the transaction.
If you are buying an empty or tenanted property, you must tell us so that we can raise further enquiries to make sure that the seller is verified as the true owner of the property.
If you do need to send sensitive information by email, do not indicate what that information might be in the email’s subject line. Consider splitting the information over one or more emails, and / or splitting it between one or more type of message – e.g. email plus text or phone call.
It can often be a good idea to transfer a small payment first to test our account details at TWM Solicitors, then call us to ensure it has arrived safely, before going through with the final transaction. We are always happy to cooperate with such an arrangement.
- Do not send your bank details by email or by phone to anyone. Bring your bank details in person to any one of our offices and sign an authority form. Alternatively, send the details to your solicitor in the post.
- TWM Solicitors is registered with the Law Society and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and we are listed on both websites should you wish to check.
- We always check that solicitors on the other side of a transaction are genuine by checking they are registered on the Law Society website. We also carry out an electronic search using a search / validation tool known as Lawyer Checker on all purchase transactions, prior to completion.
- Read anything sent to you by your conveyancer very carefully. Our bank details have not changed in very many years, and are not scheduled to change. If ever in any doubt, please just give us a call using a verified telephone number to put your mind at rest.
- We will never apply pressure to push you to proceed quickly or send you urgent warning messages. Be vigilant, fraudsters will often use this tactic.
Unfortunately, criminals are not only stealing identities of individuals; there have been instances where legitimate law firms have been accurately cloned in order to steal purchase funds. In order to protect both you and your lender from this threat, it is our policy in every single purchase transaction to verify the identity of your seller’s conveyancer and their firm using Lawyer Checker. This service helps us mitigate any risk associated in sending your money to a bogus law firm.
Lawyer Checker allows your solicitor / conveyancer to check the bank details of the seller’s conveyancer’s firm are genuine against a database of previous conveyancing transactions, and that the firm is a recognised practice known for carrying out conveyancing transactions. The results provided by the service help to better assess any risks associated with sending on your money. This additional check provides an additional layer of protection for you and your money over and above the Law Society’s recommended procedures.
We proactively monitor the risk levels in every transaction that we undertake, not only at the start of the matter, but also throughout the course of the transaction, ensuring that should any of the “warning signs” flag up during the course of your purchase, that these are flagged up and further investigations are carried out.
Tips to reduce the risks of falling victim to fraud
Working with your solicitor / conveyancer is a two-way street. No matter how good and safe we are, if you are not as vigilant, you are at risk to having your emails hacked or becoming a victim to property fraud.
Internet and social media
Consider access restrictions and how much you ‘share’ with people
Do not post any updates on social media in relation to the progress of your transaction (or even that you are engaged in one) - this is how some fraudsters identify when to send a scam email requesting your money.
Malware linked to your computer
Ensure your virus and malware protection is up to date on your computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone. These updates usually contain fixes for security holes
Never work as an Administrator on your computer, always log in as a standard user
Take a cyber security course, we recommend https://heimdalsecurity.com/en/security-education-resources for home users and small businesses.
Phishing emails, texts and phone call scams
Do not respond to emails or text messages that seem too good to be true, and do not open when from unknown or unexpected sources. Take care with ‘official’ looking emails and texts; they too can very often be false
Be aware of clicking on links in emails or opening documents from people you do not know or from whom you were not expecting an email. Remember, a fraudster could have gained control of your family or friend’s mailbox, and they may now try to infect or target you
Double check the email address. Many fraudsters register email addresses that look very similar to a real business to try and defraud you – maybe with just one subtle character difference in the email address
Never disclose your personal, bank account, PIN or card details to a stranger
Ensure you use complex passwords for each of your online accounts and email. Never use the same password for more than one account. The logic here is that if a fraudster gains access to your email account, then they will also be able to access all of your other accounts if you have used the same password
If you have the option to switch on two-factor authentication (or 2FA) which sends you a text code to your mobile phone to further authenticate you when you log in, then do so. This function is available on many email sites, such as Gmail, as well as Apps used by banks, retailers, social media platforms etc. Please go to https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/setting-two-factor-authentication-2fa for more information. Many recent impersonation attacks could have been prevented by this simple measure.
Only deal with legitimate firms you can trust as professional and who are known to you
Note all transactions you make so you have evidence should something go wrong.
Out and about
Never use public Wi-Fi to access sensitive accounts, always do it securely from your home
Shopping, restaurants and leisure – do not let your debit/credit cards, driving licence and passport out of your sight or leave unsecure
Do not disclose personal data where it seems to be an inappropriate request
Try to avoid allowing people to oversee or over hear your transactions or conversations.
At home or work
Telephone or face to face - never reveal either your username or passwords or your personal information to anyone that calls you up. Be vigilant!
Mail – ensure your mailbox is secure and your post cannot be taken or intercepted. If any post you were expecting does not arrive, make enquiries with the sender and report to the post office and police
People around you – take care to consider who may have unnecessary / inappropriate access to your personal information
Documents containing your personal information, including statements and bills, should be destroyed or stored safely
If you are at all suspicious, then do not call the telephone number in the email, look online for the correct business telephone number and call someone to confirm, and all the better if you know that person. We will always be here and happy to hear from you if you are calling to confirm whether an email is genuine.
If you are making a financial payment to TWM Solicitors, or receiving one, you should always assume that it is possible for a fraudulent transaction to occur – not that a fraud is unlikely to occur. If you make a payment without checking the authenticity of the payment request or account details, we regret that we will not be liable for any losses that you suffer as a result. In such circumstances, you should contact your bank immediately.
We routinely report scam / fraudulent emails to the necessary authorities.
Finally, after your purchase has been registered with HM Land Registry, we encourage every client to sign up to take advantage of the Land Registry Property Alert. You will be notified by email of any activity relating to your property. This service is free and allows you to:
Monitor a property if it is already registered with the Land Registry
Monitor the property of a relative – you do not have to own a property to set up an alert
Choose up to 10 properties to monitor; and you will receive email alerts when there is certain activity on the properties you are monitoring (e.g. a request for office copies, searches or applications).
To apply for this service, please go to https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk
Why choose TWM Solicitors?
Our heritage dates back over 200 years, but our values haven’t changed much since we began in business in 1799. Our success is due to our people embodying these values and delivering excellent service. Our reputation means clients continue to place their trust in us and likewise, referrers have confidence to recommend us. Our philosophy is that the best form of marketing is word of mouth, and that the best outcome is a job well done and a happy client. We have an excellent office network with offices across Surrey and London, and are always happy to make visits to clients’ premises or homes.