Criminals and fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in actively targeting property sales and purchases by committing fraud.
What is property fraud?
Property fraud is when a fraudster pretends to be a party involved in a property transaction such as the owner, buyer, borrower, or Solicitor. It can be very attractive to fraudsters if they successfully persuade a buyer, their Solicitor, or a mortgage lender into believing they are the true owner. They then try to sell or mortgage the property to get monies from either the purchase funds or the mortgage advance. This often involves the impersonation of the registered owner.
Types of fraud
There have been recent cases of sellers’ returning home after being away for a period of time to find that there is a person living in their property, the locks have been changed, all their possessions have been removed and the person in possession claiming to have recently just bought the property. This is an example of what happens when fraudsters impersonate a seller by forging documents and using identity theft to instruct solicitors to sell the property.
Since September 2009, HM Land Registry has prevented 254 fraudulent applications being registered, representing properties valued in excess of £117m but there are always a few fraudulent applications that slip through the net.3
Properties most at risk
Tips for protecting yourself from becoming a victim of fraud
Land Registry Alert Service
We would strongly recommend that you sign up to the Land Registry Alert Service to take steps to help protect your property against fraud.
The Land Registry also encourage people to set up a property alert to warn them if someone attempts to alter key details of their property online.
The property you want to monitor must be situated in England or Wales and registered with HM Land Registry and you will be required to set up an account with the Property Alert Service which you can add up to 10 properties and receive Alerts when activity takes place.
The alerts will notify you if there has been an official search or application made to the Land Registry on your property. The alerts are sent to you by email and they will notify you who to contact should you receive an alert about activity that seems to be suspicious.
Should you not have access to an email address you can call the Property Alert team on 0300 006 0478.
For more information contact our residential property team here.
This article was written by Sara Watkins, Property Executive in the Residential Prioperty team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of November 2021.