Homebuyers in France have been warned of a widespread scam in which criminals hack notaries’ email accounts and then send emails to homebuyers in an attempt to steal large sums of money for the transfer of ownership.
The UFC-Que Choisir consumer association warns people who are considering buying a property to be aware of the scam and advises to recheck any communication sent by your notary or other fund seekers.
To carry out the scam, fraudsters hack notaries’ electronic mailboxes and intercept messages sent to clients that contain certain keywords such as RIB (bank details document), sale (sale), deposit (payment) or transfer. (payment). They then replace the notary’s bank details with their own, often an account abroad, before sending the emails to buyers.
The scam has been reported throughout France but especially in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.
In one case, a buyer received an email from their lawyer asking them to pay for the sale.
All of the information in the message was correct, but the buyer noticed that the associated RIB was from a foreign account, which allowed them to avoid the scam.
How to avoid getting ripped off
UFC-Que Choisir has advised anyone involved in a real estate transaction to double and triple check their bank details in any email with an independent source.
This can include calling the notary directly to ask, as well as checking emails against official details of previous correspondence – rather than relying solely on details in an email, even if it appears. legitimate.
For example, if you have a previous bank details RIB for the notary’s office, compare it to the details in the payment request email, to make sure they are the same.
This is not the first time that a scam involving notaries has spread in France in recent times. In September last year, gendarmes warned people to watch out for criminals posing as notaries to rip off recently bereaved people.
Fraudsters have been found to study obituaries and then contact family members claiming to belong to a notary’s office.
What is a notary in France?
Notaries in France have a role comparable in some respects to that of a British lawyer, but a key difference is that notaries are not only professionals but are also public officials and appointed by the Minister of Justice.
In the case of real estate transactions, they are responsible for ensuring that the transaction is done legally, that the deeds are drafted correctly and that the sale is correctly recorded and that all funds are sent to the right parties.
They intervene in the case of physical real estate sales but also for other property issues, such as sales of plots of land and wills and inheritance matters.
There are more than 16,400 practicing notaries and 6,700 main offices in France.
You can check that a notary is in good faith in the official register on notaires.fr.
What to do when our French notary does not answer our calls?
French property: who is responsible for maintaining a party wall?
What if an ex-partner does not want to sell our French property?