A leading independent financial advice watchdog in the United Kingdom has issued a warning to prospective home buyers, regarding widespread reports of scams in the run-up to the conclusion of the temporary stamp duty holiday.
Motivated by significant potential savings and driven by what is becoming a race against time, enthusiastic buyers are increasingly playing into the hands of fraudsters. The looming March 31 stamp duty holiday deadline is being taken advantage of by criminals across the country, tricking buyers into paying money into fraudulent accounts.
Specifically, phishing emails requesting payment information from home buyers have been cited as a major problem by UK Finance.
Huge losses, rising instances of identity theft
According to the watchdog, more than £16.2 million was stolen from personal accounts during the first half of 2020 alone, primarily due to scams involving emails containing new payment details.
Instances of identity theft, in general, are also up, posing a major risk to those attempting to rush transactions to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday before it expires.
“Moving house can be a stressful time; however, it’s vital to remember to take steps which could keep you safe from scams,” commented the managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, Katy Worobec.
“This includes letting your bank and other organisations know that you’ve changed address, making sure your mail is secure, and ensuring the recipient’s bank details are correct when paying large amounts of money during the house-buying process, such as your deposit.”
UK Finance has once again urged buyers to be vigilant against such attacks, advising caution and scrutiny where any emails are received that contain new payment details or requests for payments to different accounts.
Duplicate invoices for services provided should also be monitored, as should any emails or telephone calls asking customers to confirm information such as their bank account numbers or login credentials.
Identity theft prevention
To reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft, UK Finance has advised homebuyers to verify every payment request or information request with their bank and/or real estate agent directly, before providing any information or transferring any funds.
All incoming communications regarding payment information or requests for personal data should be treated as suspicious until verified by contacting the appropriate provider directly.
The temporary stamp duty holiday introduced by the chancellor has removed all stamp duty liabilities for anyone purchasing a property with a market value of £500,000 or less.
This amounts to a significant discount on the overall purchase price for the vast majority of buyers until March 31, augmenting the sum normally expected by way of a deposit.