Have you protected yourself against property fraud?
Unless it is particularly audacious, property crime rarely makes the headlines. But that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Earlier this year, the Land Registry revealed that its property fraud line received over 3,000 calls and emails during its first three years of operation. Since 2009 it has prevented fraud on properties totalling some £92 million.
Some of these frauds (and others that were not prevented) were very high profile. In one case, the wife of journalist and author Max Hastings, discovered that a rental property she owned had been sold to an unwitting buyer for £1.35 million. A fraudster had changed their name by Deed Poll to Penny Hastings – and although the Land Registry smelled a rat and declined to register the sale, the buyer’s money was last seen heading towards Dubai.
Similarly, two men – Marshall Joseph and Alick Kapikanya – used fake documents to raise £6.8 million in fraudulent mortgages, while pilot Mark Entwhistle was jailed for a £30 million mortgage fraud after selling people’s houses from under them and defrauding others of their life savings and investments.
The Land Registry advises that your property is more likely to be targeted by fraudsters if:
- Your identity has been stolen
- You rent out your property
- You live overseas
- Your property is empty
- Your property isn’t mortgaged
- Your property isn’t registered with the Land Registry
Property fraud, then, is sadly alive and well. But what can you do to protect yourself from it?
The most effective thing you can do to stop any of your properties being fraudulently sold or mortgaged is to sign up to the Land Registry’s Property Alert service. You can monitor up to 10 properties for no fee, and you will receive alerts if someone tries to change the register of a property – e.g. such as trying to use it to obtain a mortgage. You can put up to three contact addresses in the register, including an overseas address and your email address.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that your properties are registered with the Land Registry, and that your details are up to date. Those most likely to be unregistered are those that haven’t been mortgaged or haven’t changed hands since 1990 – but be sure to check.
While the likelihood of becoming the victim of a property fraud can seem remote, it does happen and will continue to happen. So take a few minutes to register your properties with the Property Alert service, and you’ll have a good first line of defence against the scammers.