A partner with one of the Midland’s leading law firms has warned homebuyers about a sophisticated new legal scam which could cost them their life savings.
Neil Stockall, who is a Partner at Higgs & Sons and a member of the residential property team, says a growing number of fake solicitors are targeting the housing market.
Neil says the crooks steal the identities of real solicitors to fleece homebuyers out of their hard-earned savings.
He said new figures showed there had been 30 official warnings about fake solicitor scams already this year, against just 22 for the whole of 2012.
“There is no doubt that the problem is growing and that more people are being caught out by this type of scam,” Neil said.
“In one example, fake lawyers trick a buyer’s solicitor into believing they are acting for the seller in a house purchase. When the deposit and mortgage funds are placed in the bank account they provide, the fraudsters disappear with the cash.”
Neil said he was aware of cases in which buyers had been tricked out of up to £735,000 and urged anyone selling a house to make sure their own solicitor carried out rigorous checks on the seller’s legal team.
“The clear message to any homebuyer is to make sure they use a reputable solicitor themselves and then get them to thoroughly check the credentials of the other side’s legal team.
“This means doing more than just checking the list of recognised solicitors issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, because the SRA itself accepts this cannot be relied upon. We would urge them to also use a recognised legal checking service and make sure they are satisfied with the results before they part with any money.
“Unfortunately there are a growing number of unscrupulous people who use the stress which surrounds a house move to target people when they are at their most vulnerable.”
Higgs & Sons works from two offices in the Black Country – Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill and Kingswinford. The firm employs more than 200 people, which includes over 100 specialist lawyers.
For specialist advice on residential property issues, contact Neil on 0845 111 5050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org