Kent homeowners warned to be alert to online scammers
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Homeowners buying or selling houses in Kent are being advised of some extra safety measures to adopt when transferring money online after a woman reported being a victim of fraud.
Kent Police launched an investigation after the victim transferred more than £70,000 to who she genuinely thought was her solicitor as part of a house purchase. Despite already querying the invoice and making some checks over the phone, the money was transferred to a rogue account. As soon as the victim realised something was wrong, she reported the incident to police.
Officers carried out initial enquiries which led to the arrest of a 32-year-old woman from Gravesend on suspicion of money laundering. She has since been released pending further enquiries.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Kerry Akast, from the Volume Fraud Team said:
‘Whilst we investigate this report we urge people to be wary of this type of offending as fraudsters can be very convincing when they contact you. The reality is that anyone can be targeted by criminals and their emails and calls can look and sound very real.
‘We would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the extra steps that can be taken to keep your money safe. They include avoiding the use of public Wi-Fi systems to check emails when house purchases are being made as hackers can take advantage of you that way. Avoid posting social media messages about you buying or selling your house as criminals can assume the next step will be a large financial transaction.
‘You should also never be afraid of querying details that have been sent to you and always call your solicitor on the normal phone number to ensure you are speaking with a genuine employee from the firm.’
Advice and ways to report
To report incidents of fraud call Kent Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. You can also report non-urgent crimes online.
• Do not feel pressured into changing any bank details. If you receive an email stating a change in the bank details don’t be afraid to question its authenticity. Check the email address carefully and if in doubt phone to check the information is correct.
• Make sure you have strong passwords for your accounts and have anti-virus installed on your devices. To create a strong password, simply choose three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed.
• Review internal procedures with businesses regarding how clients are permitted to amend the bank details held for them.
• At the start of the conveyancing process agree the terms in which any changes in bank details will occur, such as in person.
• Beware of calls late in the day to change account details, in particular on a Friday when everyone is trying to get everything completed for the weekend.
• Think of ABC – Never assume a caller is genuine, never believe that they are telling the truth and always confirm via a trusted number.