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Hayes Connor helps woman retrieve £57,000 following sophisticated push payment fraud cyber-attack

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Hayes Connor managed to retrieve £57,000 in compensation after cybercriminals stole £96,000 from a woman in a sophisticated push payment scam. The money was intended for a property purchase and was stolen after the fraudsters hacked her solicitor's email system.

What happened in this push payment fraud case?

52-year-old Sally Flood had been looking forward to buying an investment property for her children in time for Christmas with money inherited from her dad. However, a call from her bank left the family devastated as she realised that she had been victim to sophisticated fraud.

A careers adviser at a secondary school in Stockport, Sally Flood said:

"I was looking forward to completing on a property I planned to purchase as an investment for my children with money left to me by my dad. It was close to Christmas and I was keen to complete quickly. When I received an email from my solicitor asking for a transfer of funds, I transferred the first instalment then I contacted one of the ladies at the office via email to check that the funds had been received. I received an email back confirming receipt of the first payment.

"I then proceeded to transfer the remainder completely unaware that it was a scam. My heart sank when the bank called to query the transactions as a discrepancy in the solicitor's details had been picked up. I phoned my solicitor straight away only to have them confirm that they had discovered a day earlier that their system had been hacked. It was an extremely difficult Christmas for the family and we still feel like our lives are on hold now."

How did Hayes Connor help?

We investigated the crime and succeeded in retrieving £57,000 from Mrs Flood's conveyancing solicitor as it was responsible for the lack of robust security measures on its system.

However, following the push payment fraud, our client is still £35,000 out of pocket. Kingsley Hayes, the solicitor in this case and managing director at Hayes Connor said:

"Fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated, and the emails sent to my client were very authentic containing details of the property being purchased and the desired date of completion so Mrs Flood had no reason to question it or anticipate that it may have been fake.

"They had successfully hacked her solicitor's email system and were able to read details of the planned purchase and were aware that my client was keen to complete before Christmas. They swooped on the opportunity to take advantage and succeeded in illegally obtaining the total amount of £96,000 intended for the property purchase.

"Unfortunately, as the incident took place before new consumer protection rights were introduced at the end of May 2019 via the new Voluntary Code of Conduct, it will be extremely difficult to retrieve the remaining stolen monies."

Push payment fraud warning

Mrs Flood is warning people to be vigilant when transferring large sums of money after falling victim to the sophisticated payment fraud. Commenting on her experience she said:

"Our lives have been on hold since this happened. I still blame myself and feel very anxious and upset. It's a lot of money to lose and it's even more upsetting because it was money left to us by my dad and was supposed to be for our children's future.

"The first email asking for the funds transfer looked very authentic. When I received a second email, in response to mine, confirming receipt of the first transfer from my solicitor, I naturally felt reassured and made a further payment.

"The fraudsters banked with Lloyds and while the bank was able to refund an unspent £4,000 from their account, I have been advised that they are unable to retrieve the remaining £35,000 which is still a lot of money for most ordinary families."

Kingsley Hayes added:

"Although consumers now have greater protection rights under the Code of Conduct if their bank is signed up to it, extra caution is advised as fraudsters become increasingly sophisticated. According to Finance UK, £354 million was lost to payment fraud during 2018, 93% of victims were individuals who lost a total of £228 million.

"While the new Code of Conduct provides greater consumer protection, it doesn't mean that victims are guaranteed to get all their money back as fraudsters deploy complex tactics including quickly removing stolen funds to overseas accounts making it very difficult to retrieve, if at all."


What is push payment fraud?

Push payment fraud (also called APP fraud) happens when cyber criminals deceive individuals into sending them money. Because the victim believes the fraudster to be genuine, they authorise the handover of cash. The money is then quickly transferred to different accounts, often abroad, which makes getting it back very difficult.

Typical push payment scams include:

  • Sending fake invoices that look genuine (e.g. from a child's school or a legitimate tradesperson)
  • Convincing people to transfer money to someone official, such as a solicitor (e.g. when buying a house)
  • Conning people to transfer cash into fraudulent bank accounts
  • Sending emails pretending to be from a friend asking for money

If you want to claim compensation following a push payment scam, Hayes Connor can help. Our professional, friendly team will be pleased to answer any questions you might have and advise you on whether you have a valid claim. If you have been the victim of an attempted push payment scam, you should also contact Action Fraud ASAP.

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