What is Lawyer Checker?

02/03/2018
Conveyancing fraud is increasing rapidly and this has been particularly apparent regarding the transferral of a buyer's money to a vendor's conveyancer. Criminals often fake the details of accredited solicitors and victims looking to buy a home have often found that they've deposited their money into a fraudster's account.

When our solicitors are in any way unsure about the apparent account details given for a counterparty's solicitor, they use a service called lawyer checker to investigate the account and ultimately to best protect your money from potential fraud.

The SRA endorses lawyer checking facilities

"…consider using systems such as any of the firms that offer lawyer checking services as befits the law firm's particular circumstances to verify that what is described as the contact or bank information for a third party law firm is genuine."

Solicitors Regulation Authority Risk Outlook 2017/18

This article looks at the following:

View a sample Lawyer Checker Report

Mobile users can email this sample report to themselves



* Fixed Fee – No Sale No Fee – Lawyer Checker always used where appropriate

Fixed Fee, No Sale No Fee with a 5 out of 5 rating

 

When do our solicitors use lawyer checker?

When you instruct our solicitors to conduct the legals for you when you're buying a home, one of the first things they do on opening your file is to make contact with the solicitors acting for the person selling the property to you.

If our solicitors have never dealt with that solicitor before, then there is no past history to rely on regarding the safety of that firm and in particular the account they nominate for payment of your deposit and completion monies. In this situation, our solicitors use lawyer checker to ensure that they can proceed safely. 

What is lawyer checker and how does it work?

Lawyer checker is a service which enables your conveyancing solicitor to check the previous use of client accounts to which they are sending funds and reduces uncertainty in identifying the legitimacy of the vendor conveyancer by enabling your conveyancing solicitor to assess the risk associated with the transaction.

Your conveyancer enters the other firm's client account details and lawyer checker instantly assesses whether the client account has a track record of previous use in the conveyancing market or whether it presents a potential risk. Where a potential risk is highlighted, other checks are performed to provide the conveyancer with information to help them determine whether they should accept the undertaking offered to them.

Lawyer checker requires details such as the seller’s solicitors’ company name, sort code, account number and post code. Once these have been entered, it instantly gives one of three returns regarding the account in question: frequent, infrequent or unknown.

Frequent

If lawyer checker returns a frequent result, it confirms that that particular solicitors’ bank account has been used on a regular basis by other firms to complete conveyancing transactions, or that the account is registered for that particular solicitor's firm against the address given and also that the firm has used that particular account to lodge applications through the Land Registry portal online.

Infrequent

If lawyer checker returns an infrequent result, it means that either that bank account isn’t registered against that solicitor firm’s details provided or that it is infrequently used for conveyancing transactions. An infrequent result could however also mean that the bank account being used has only recently been set up. Regardless, when 'infrequent' is returned, lawyer checker conducts a number of further tests on a number of different conveyancing-related databases to build a more authoritative report on the firm in question such that an informed decision can be made about whether to proceed.

Unknown

If lawyer checker returns an unknown result, it means that the account details have not been recognised at all and there is no record of conveyancing transactions being carried out using it. Just like for an infrequent result, lawyer checker conducts a number of further tests on the account to provide as much information as possible to your conveyancer as to whether to proceed with the conveyancing with that solicitor or not.

Did You Know?

More than 10,000 houses are placed on the market in England & Wales each week; over £223 billion in property transactions are exchanged on average each year.

What are the benefits of lawyer checker (real-life example)?

Lawyer checker recently saved a south-eastern property law firm from losing £375,000 of client funds to fraudsters, according to various media reports.

During a real transaction, the buyer's solicitors - Hayward Moon, a conveyancing firm based in Ipswich - received a bogus email purporting to be from the vendor's solicitor. The firm fed the details on the email into lawyer checker and a red flag was raised.

The vendor's solicitors firm was actually local and therefore known to Hayward Moon and its bank account details were known; there had been no suspicion at Exchange of Contracts. But Hayward Moon had then chased the firm for replies to requisition in the lead up to completion date and had had no success.

At the last minute, the requisitions replied by email, but the bank details given were different from what Hayward Moon had previously received, which gave the accounts department cause for suspicion, which, when reported, caused the fee earner to use lawyer checker.

Unknown result returned

The result was returned as unknown so the fee earner proceeded to check an internal safe list which in turn raised suspicions. The fee earner then emailed a partner at the other firm to get confirmation that the account details had changed. She received an email apparently from the partner which told her to proceed with the new details.

But the fee earner persisted in trying to get through to the firm by phone and only then was it confirmed that the bank account details given in the email were not genuine and that the email which purported to be from the partner was bogus - the person dealing with that particular file wasn't in the office and the time and could not access his email account.

It transpired that the vendor firm had tried to email Hayward Moon but using an incorrect email address. It sent over the replies to requisition using this email address but the fraudster/s most likely intercepted the communication and then released the email with amended bank details on the morning of completion.

The fee earner mentioned clearly acted impeccably however it is clear that the use of lawyer checker here instigated the chain of suspicion which caused the attempted scam to fail. Had the scam been successful, a client would have lost nearly £400,000 and two conveyancing solicitor firms would have had their reputations severely damaged.

What does lawyer checker cost?

It costs you £12 when our conveyancing solicitors use lawyer checker to protect you by verifying if the other side solicitors and the account details they've given are genuine.

* Fixed Fee – No Sale No Fee – Lawyer Checker always used where appropriate


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