What is the Safe buyer scheme?
The safe buyer scheme is a scheme where conveyancers join to help prevent their clients from the increased risk of deposit redirection fraud.
The scheme has a fee for buyers about £10 plus VAT. Once it is time to transfer any funds you will receive a text to join the safe buyer scheme from which you will be able to log in and search for the details of your conveyancer so you can ensure you are transferring funds to the right bank account.
What is deposit redirection fraud?
Deposit redirection fraud currently costs the UK about £45,000 per day. It has risen year on year and affected over 159 people last year.
Deposit redirection fraud targets people who are looking to buy a home by installing malware into their device and waiting to see communication indicating an imminent house purchase is on its way.
The fraudsters who are essentially in control of the computer will then produce an email which looks very similar to the one coming from the conveyancer.
In the email, you will likely be told that the payment details for the bank have now changed and given banking information which belongs to the fraudster.
You may then pay the fraudster unknowingly and by the time the fraud has been discovered the money will have been withdrawn and taken out of the country or become unrecoverable.
Alternatives to the safe buyer scheme?
If you don’t want to pay the £10 plus VAT you could simply send £1 to your conveyancer and then call them from the contact details on their website to verify they have received the funds by asking them how much they received and not initially revealing how much you sent.
This will give you basic proof that you have sent the money to the right people.
But this isn’t the only fraud the safe buyer scheme looks to prevent.
The property hijack scheme
The safe buyer scheme is also actively looking to prevent the property hijack scheme which profits fraudsters a reported £25m a year.
The property hijack scheme works when a property is unmortgaged and the owner is usually living abroad or it is a rented property.
A fraudster forges documents proving ownership of the property and then proceeds to sell the property to the unknown buyer.
A way to prevent this from the buyer’s side is to purchase the safe buyer schemes £15 proprietor check which will show you the true details of the homeowner and allow you to prevent the property hijack from occurring
From the homeowners perspective, they could sign up to the land registries property alert service which lets them know if someone tries to change the details on the land registry.
The land registries property alert service is free.
Finally, another option for homeowners is to put a restriction on the title of your home.
This stops the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.
You can set this up via the Gov.uk website for a £40 fee if you live at the property, though the service is free for businesses or those who own property privately but are not living in it.
If you’re a victim of property fraud, you should contact the Land Registry property fraud line and report your case to the police via Action Fraud.
Whilst the safe buyer scheme may help reduce your risk to this kind of fraud you should always take your own measures to avoid becoming a victim.
If you need financial advice and you live in the UK then you could contact the Money Advice service over the phone or via chat for impartial advice.
You can also contact the debt charity “Step Change” if you are in debt and need help.