How to protect your property (and yourself) against fraud

Criminals are getting cleverer. Daylight robbery is much easier with modern communications and less face to face transactions.

Homeowners are increasingly targeted by fraudsters exploiting the combination of high prices, multiple home ownership and the regularity of online transactions. We regularly get email requests to act in sales where the facts don’t add up. Those requests go straight in the junk folder.

The fraudsters’ aim is often to steal the real owner’s identity and sell or mortgage the property, which they pretend belongs to them, to release capital which is never seen again.

Since 2009 The Land Registry, in conjunction with police and other government departments, has stopped property frauds worth more than £92m. But there will always be the one that got away. You can do more to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Fraudsters target property ownership where the risks of detection are seen as lower, such as

  • Empty properties, for example where an owner lives abroad, has more than one property, is elderly and in residential care or has died
  • Rented properties
  • Unregistered properties
  • Mortgage-free properties, as no lender’s permission is needed to sell the property.

We conduct checks on clients to confirm their identity before we start any work. It is not enough to work out who owns the property and to have ID for that person. We must also be sure that our client IS that person and not someone who has stolen their ID, using a combination of online searches backed up with good old fashioned checks and common sense.

HM Land Registry gives these tips to reduce your risks:

  • Make sure your property is registered. The government will not compensate owners who are the victims of property fraud if their properties are unregistered. We can advise you on voluntary registration of your title.
  • Keep your details up to date with Land Registry so that they can contact you if needed. They can store three addresses on the register, including foreign and email addresses.
  • Sign up for their free Property Alert service. This allows you to receive alerts of activity for up to 10 registered properties.
  • Enter a restriction on your property, to require a solicitor or conveyancer to confirm they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. It sounds silly but it gives an extra line of defence if the conveyancer dealing with the sale has to put their own name to their client’s ID.

If you think that any of the above may apply to you please speak to us. We will be happy to help you make your property more difficult for fraudsters to target.

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