Conveyancing Fraud: Email Attacks Amongst Major Threats To UK Businesses

A new report by the National Crime Agency (NCA) cites business email attacks to perpetrate conveyancing fraud as one of the “major reported fraud threats facing UK businesses”. The National Strategic Assessment of Serious & Organised Crime 2018 report warns of increased activity by cybercriminals who “use phishing emails as a means to compromise customers’ security and personal details and gain access to email accounts,” with mandate fraud and CEO fraud also singled out as areas of particular concern.

The NCA states that “fraud is the most commonly experienced crime in the UK,” with 3.4 million incidents reported in the financial year ending March 2017 – although the agency believes the true figure is significantly higher, with chronic underreporting meaning that fewer than one in five incidents is actually reported to the police. Overall, the NCA estimates that fraud costs the UK economy at least £190 billion annually – £140 billion of that affecting private sector organisations – with the majority of “computer software service fraud” originating overseas.

Cyber crime hitting UK businesses is becoming “increasingly complex,” with “more sophisticated techniques [being used] to target victims”: “The rise in impersonation and deception frauds, where a criminal approaches a customer purporting to be from a legitimate organisation is an increasing concern.”

The NCA cautions that the future is likely to present an even worse picture of fraud in the UK, thanks in part to a number of large-scale data breaches last year which have seen scammers gain access to the personal data of millions of consumers. The report warns that “it is highly likely that reporting of fraud will continue to show a steady rise over the next 12 months… The continued push for easily accessible online services will continue to provide opportunities for fraudsters. Large organised networks will continue to target UK victims constantly adapting or changing their methodologies to deceive their victims.”

The NCA has grouped the various threats covered in its report into three “response pillars” – “Vulnerabilities”, “Prosperity” and “Commodities” – in order to better coordinate responses to those threats. The business email attacks to conduct conveyancing fraud fall along with all other types of fraud within the “Prosperity” category along with threats relating to money laundering, bribery, cybercrime, international corruption, sanctions evasion and other economic crime. Affecting all the response pillars are a series of “cross-cutting threat enablers” – “Vulnerabilities at the UK Border”, “Use of Technology in Serious Organised Crime”, “Prisons & Repeat Offenders” and “Corruption Within The UK” – which the NCA addresses with the assistance of other national bodies.