How to Protect Your Property From Fraudsters

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Property fraud is on the increase. This is because fraudsters are now well aware that Land Registry records have been open to the public since 1990. Since October 2003 the use of land certificates with a watermark were discontinued. Documents of title are supplied by the Land Registry upon request and changes to the title can be made electronically without even supplying the original and executed deeds. This free access of information to fraudsters and the ability to register fraudulent dealings means that more people are at risk than they may think.

Recent property fraud incidents have become more sophisticated. For example, some cases have involved dishonest parties posing as property professionals including law firms which later turn out to be a “sham” firm.

Clients at a greater risk

Nobody is safe from property fraudsters, but the following are examples of more common victims of fraud:

  1. An empty property: You may own a property that is currently empty and you have made no attempts to notify the authorities or protect your position as discussed below.
  2. Rental Properties: The risks are similar with an empty property mentioned above, but in addition tenants have been known to steal their landlord’s identity especially where the landlords’ personal bank details are delivered through a letterbox! There have been cases where the landlord only suspected fraud when a “For Sale” sign was put up outside the rented property.
  3. The property is free of any mortgage: These properties are of particular interest to fraudsters who have been successful in raising finance and securing financial charges against previously unencumbered title deeds.
  4. Unregistered Land: Fraudsters may attempt to register your property by producing fake title deeds so it may be safer to register the title voluntarily whilst implementing further safeguards as mentioned below.
  5. The owner of a property lives abroad: The owner has not notified the authorities, banks and Land Registry or taken necessary safeguards to protect their property.
  6. Already been a victim of identity theft?: Facilitating a fraud becomes a lot easier for a criminal if your ID has already been stolen.

Now for the Good News

IBB can help protect you from becoming a victim of a property fraud as follows:

  1. Check your title and liaise with the Land Registry to ensure that the up-to-date contact information is recorded on the title.
  2. Register unregistered title and implement the safeguards mentioned in this section.
  3. Register with the Land Registry Property Alert service.
  4. Registering a Restriction on your registered title applicable to your circumstances or your company who may own the property.
  5. Be aware of property fraud! Please visit the following links to learn more on the subject:

Contact our residential conveyancing team today

IBB’s team of property solicitors can advise on all aspects of buying, selling and mortgaging property. If you would like further information on protecting your property from fraud or for any other conveyancing enquiry please contact Gary Bunce on 01494 790071 or email conveyancing@ibblaw.co.uk .