How You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim Of Property Fraud

20 January 2015

Over the past few months The Land Registry have been testing and refining a new Property Alert service which will help people discover any unexpected legal activity on their property which could be fraudulent.

While the likelihood of being a victim of property fraud is fairly low (at the moment at least), the possible consequences are not – imagine finding out that someone else has sold your home and you knew nothing about it!

What Is Property Fraud?

There are different types of property fraud.

For example, a criminal may use forged documents to convince a solicitor or mortgage lender that they are in fact the owner. They could then sell the property or raise a mortgage and steal the money.

Or the fraudster might use identity theft to impersonate a seller, and then sell to an innocent buyer, creating yet another victim.

So How Can This Be Prevented?

Property Alert is free monitoring service which will notify you if there’s been certain activity on a property. Alerts will be sent to you when Land Registry receive an application to change the register as well as for official searches.

You can then decide whether or not the activity is possibly fraudulent and if you should seek further advice.

So if you receive an alert that a bank has applied for a search on your property but you haven’t applied for a mortgage, you should take legal advice, contact Action Fraud or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the registered owner and have not applied for a mortgage.

The benefits of the Property Alert service are:

  • An early warning of suspicious activity
  • It allows you to take immediate action if required
  • It’s free

How Do You Sign Up For Property Alert?

Property Alert will initially be open to 20,000 users on a first-come, first- served basis for a trial period.

Land Registry will collate feedback from users and make any necessary changes to the service before it goes fully live.

What Properties Are Especially At Risk From Property Fraud

  • Empty properties – such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
  • Where there is a family dispute. For example when a relative dies or a relationship breaks down, a family member could try to sell a property without dividing the proceeds of the sale with those who are entitled to a share.
  • Tenanted properties. For example, tenants could gain access to the landlord’s information and provide proof of residence at an address.
  • Properties where there is no mortgage. More than 9 million residential properties are mortgage-free – that’s nearly half of all registered residential properties.

More information available on the GOV UK website.