Homebuyers Warned of Scams as End of Stamp Duty Holiday Nears
As homebuyers scramble to complete sales before the stamp duty holiday ends on 31 March 2021, UK Finance is urging them to be wary of fraudsters.
The stamp duty reprieve has led to a boom in the housing market, with record numbers searching for properties and house prices growth reaching a six-year high.
But it’s not just sellers and estate agents raking in money from the super-charged market. Scammers are also trying to cash in.
The finance trade body says homebuyers are at risk of being tricked into paying deposits into accounts controlled by criminals.
In the first half of 2020, scams involving customers being sent emails with fake payment details cost Britons £16.2 million, UK Finance said. These fraudulent emails could manipulate home buyers into sending their deposits to the wrong accounts.
Home movers could also become the victim of identity theft. Letters sent to their old addresses could be used by criminals to apply for credit or benefits in their name.
Homebuyers can take precautions to protect themselves from swindlers, UK Finance said. Katy Worobec, managing director or economic crime at the trade association, said: “Moving house can be a stressful time; however, it’s vital to remember to take steps which could keep you safe from scams.
“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 housebuying process, such as your deposit.”
UK Finance also said buyers should watch out for emails containing new payment details from firms and duplicate invoices for services. Buyers should check payment details with estate agents and solicitors by phone before transferring money.
The trade body also said it was aware of instances of criminals pretending to be from an estate agent and asking for personal details, claiming the mover is owed a “refund.”
To prevent identity theft, movers should ensure they have notified their bank or building society and other organisations of any change of address and set up a redirection service to catch any other post.