Victim of £470,000 House-Buying Fraud Wins His Money Back

Increasingly sophisticated fraudsters are regrettably active in the property market and, in one striking case, the High Court was called upon to rule on the financial consequences of a £470,000 con which took in not only a would-be housebuyer but also licensed conveyancers and a firm of solicitors.

The fraudster pretended to be the owner of a house in London and, by the time his trick was exposed, the whole of the purchase price had been paid by the buyer to the conveyancers he had retained to represent him in the deal. The money was then paid on to the solicitors, who believed that they had been instructed by the property’s owner. It was in turn transmitted to a bank account in Dubai and neither the money, nor the fraudster, were ever heard of again.

After the buyer launched proceedings to recover the money he lost, the Court found that the solicitors were in breach of trust in making the transfer to Dubai before the sale was formally completed. The conveyancers admitted breach of trust and were also found to have been negligent and in breach of contract in failing to inform the buyer of the risk attached to a transaction in which no documentary link could be established between the vendor and the property. The conveyancers and the solicitors were ordered to bear the buyer’s loss in equal parts.