Protecting your property from fraud
Sadly, fraud in all its forms is on the increase with cybercrime a rapidly growing area of concern.
Whilst the elderly and most vulnerable in our community are often targeted, the reality is that we must all remain on our guard as every day clever, well organised and totally unscrupulous criminals are inventing new ways of defrauding innocent people.
Property transactions remain a major target for fraudsters with scams becoming increasingly common sophisticated. They include criminals who:
- Set up and hide behind a fake law firm;
- Intercept and manipulate emails;
- Impersonate property owners;
- Try to steal your identity.
Unfortunately, scams when you are buying or selling property are more and more common. Criminals may try to intercept funds by conning you into transferring funds into their bank accounts instead of your conveyancers.
They may also target you by offering what sounds like an amazingly profitable, quick buck, property scheme. The reason it sounds too good to be true is because it generally is.
Others are targeting the largest asset you may have – your property. The aim quite simply is to sell it or raise a new mortgage on it without your knowledge.
Is my property at risk?
Property fraud commonly involves a fraudster impersonating a property owner in an attempt to obtain funds by either selling the property or securing debt against the property.
The greatest risk is where:
- Your identity has been stolen;
- You rent out your property;
- You live overseas;
- The property is empty;
- The property isn’t mortgaged;
- The property isn’t registered with HM Land Registry.
What about my title deeds?
Your title to the property will usually be registered at the HM Land Registry and all titles are public documents. The title is held electronically and there is therefore no physical ‘title deed’ that needs to be produced for the property in order for it to be sold or mortgaged.
Your property will be registered if you bought it or mortgaged it since 1998 – check the register if you are unsure or ask your conveyancer to check this for you.
Minimising the risk of property fraud – what you can do
Signing up to the HM Land Registry Property Alerts service
This service is available to anyone and means you will get a notification email if someone tries to make changes to the property you have signed up for or register a mortgage.
This is only a limited measure as it won’t stop the application but by alerting you, it enables you to take action. You can get alerts for up to ten properties – you don’t have to own that property or have any permission to set up an alert for it – and there is no fee to pay. Click here to find out more.
Putting a restriction on the title deeds of your property
Wards Solicitors commonly include an application for a restriction where investment property is purchased, but it can be entered later for a small fee. HM Land Registry allows you to make this application yourself where you do not live in the property. Find out more by clicking here.
Making sure your title is registered with the HM Land Registry
If your property is not yet registered then we would recommend that you apply for this to be done as soon as possible. At Wards Solicitors we offer a fixed fee for this service and the HM Land Registry offers a concession on its usual registration fee. The benefits of registration include:
- Your interest in and title to the property is protected by being part of a public register;
- You will have security and certainty as to what you own;
- It may simplify any subsequent transactions whether in your lifetime or by your executors and beneficiaries in the event of your death.
Consider supplying details of more than one address
When your title is registered at HM Land Registry, this will show you as the owner and usually the property as your contact address. If HM Land Registry needs to contact you they will use this address, buy you can ask them to add more than one address and an email address.
As it is not unheard of for fraudsters to change the registered address as a precursor to deception, it’s a good idea to give more than one address and an email address can also be included. This is a small measure which can be very important.