Home-movers warned scammers could be targeting their deposit or other finances

Home-movers are being warned to watch out for scams which could involve their identity and large sums of money – such as their deposit – being stolen.

The stamp duty holiday, which ends on March 31 2021, has fuelled a housing market “mini boom”, with buyers rushing to beat the deadline.

But when people are moving home, criminals may try to manipulate them into handing over their personal details.

They may send fake invoices from businesses involved in the moving process, for example.

Or they may intercept home-movers’ post and use the details in it to apply for financial products.

Trade association UK Finance is urging people to protect themselves from criminals trying to steal their personal and financial details.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime, UK Finance, 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 house-buying process, such as your deposit.

“Customers should always remember to follow the advice of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign to protect themselves from fraud, and, if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately.”

Here are some scams highlighted by UK Finance:

– Identity fraud

Your personal information may be stolen and used to open bank accounts, take out credit cards and loans, or apply for benefits and official documents in your name.

ID theft can happen when people move to a new house and forget to redirect their mail, or do not change their mailing address with their bank and other organisations.

Signs that someone else may have stolen your identity include unfamiliar transactions appearing in bank statements, receiving letters about loans or credit cards you did not apply for, and receiving bills or receipts for goods you have not asked for. A mobile phone contract may have been set up in your name without your knowledge.

Or you may apply for benefits and be told you are already claiming.

– Card not received fraud

This can happen when a card is stolen in transit, after a card company sends it out but before the genuine cardholder receives it.

The risk of this happening may increase if you move home and do not tell your bank your new address, or if your mail or post box is not secure.

– Invoice and mandate scams

Criminals may pose as an estate agent, solicitor, surveyor or someone from another trusted organisation and provide you with new or amended bank account details. They will try to trick you into sending money to the account, which is controlled by them.

These scams often involve a criminal intercepting emails and gaining access to your supplier’s email account, or simply pretending to be from the supplier, which is also known as spoofing.

Signs of these scams involve receiving new bank details from someone you have already been dealing with that are different from the existing details you hold.

You may receive duplicate or more frequent invoices for a product or service than the genuine service provider normally sends.

There have also been instances of criminals pretending to be from an estate agent and asking for personal details as they claim the home-mover is due a “refund”.

Here are UK Finance’s tips for avoiding scams when moving house:

1. Always follow the advice of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign. This tells people to pause and think before parting with their cash or personal information, refuse or ignore any suspicious requests, and inform their bank immediately if they think they have fallen for a scam, as well as reporting it to Action Fraud.

2. Use a redirection service when moving to a new home, such as the one provided by Royal Mail, as well as informing your bank, card company and other organisations of your new address.

3. Be careful if other people have access to your post, particularly if you are moving to a building with shared post boxes. Contact Royal Mail if you think your post is being stolen.

4. Check with your solicitor or estate agent in person or over the phone that their payment details are correct and genuine before you transfer your deposit or any large sum of money.

5. Destroy unwanted documents including bills, bank statements or post that is in your name, preferably by using a shredder.

6. Request copies of your personal credit report from a credit reference agency on a regular basis to check for any entries you do not recognise.

7. Provide as little personal information about yourself on social media as possible. Only accept “friends” invitations from people you know. Remember – announcing your house move on social media may alert criminals to the opportunity to scam you.

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