Property professionals increasingly targeted by criminals

Some 37% of estate agents and other property firms experienced financial crime in 2023, jumping from 17% the year before.

The number of property firms (29%) finding themselves prey to financial criminals increased almost five times since 2022, while finance firms falling victim to financial crime more than doubled to a third (14% in 2022), SmartSearch research shows.

Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch, and a qualified lawyer, said: “As the gatekeepers of the UK’s financial system, regulated firms in these sectors are on the frontline in the ongoing fight against financial crime.

“As attempts increase and more criminals look to exploit weaknesses to launder money and legitimise illicit funds, regulated firms must remain proactive and ensure their compliance processes are robust enough to withstand such attempts.

“For those firms that have already become a victim of money laundering or financial crime, I cannot think of a higher priority this year.

“As the threat level has risen, many firms have taken the opportunity to implement a digital compliance strategy, utilising the latest technology, along with real-time data to transform this onerous task into a seamless part of client onboarding and ongoing monitoring.”

As criminals continue to become more sophisticated, tools such as electronic verification (EV) and digital platforms such as SmartSearch have grown in popularity.

EV is cited by the 2020 Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act as an important safeguard.