Property Fraud is on the rise!
Cases of property fraud are increasing and any property owner is potentially at risk due to rapid and remote modern conveyancing transactions. To find out that your home has been fraudulently taken by an unidentifiable third party is devastating.
The recent news story of a property owner’s house being fraudulently sold without his knowledge reads as a shocking tale. Having been alerted by neighbours, the owner drove to his home in Luton and discovered building work had started and a new owner present who said he had bought the house. Following investigations it was found that the original owner’s identity had been stolen and used to sell the house and pocket the sale proceeds.
Disturbingly this scenario, whilst not common, is becoming more regularly seen and the Land Registry paid out a total of £3.5 million in compensation for fraud last year. They reported:
‘We work with professional conveyancers, such as solicitors, and rely on them and the checks that they make to spot fraudulent attempts to impersonate property owners. Despite our efforts, every year we do register a very small number of fraudulent transactions.’
The Land Registry’s move towards an online land registration system is faster and much more convenient but the drawback is that it also makes life easier for fraudsters. You are able to purchase copies of documents held by the Land Registry online and this can be used to a fraudsters’ advantage. They can, by using a forged document, impersonate the identity of the registered property owner and may be able to acquire ownership or fraudulently sell or mortgage a property.
Whilst fraud is on the rise, the good news is you can take steps to protect your property. You can track changes to the register or put a restriction on your title if you think you’re at risk. You are able to set up property alerts so you can see if someone applies to change the register of your property, for example if someone tries to use your property for a mortgage. This will not automatically block any changes to the register but will alert you when something changes so that you can take action.