Homeowners and buyers are at risk of losing thousands of pounds to fraudsters as property fraud reaches a five-year high. The Government has warned that people should take precautionary action to protect their property assets if they do not want to fall victim to this crime.
What is property fraud?
Criminals are committing identity fraud in an attempt to sell, mortgage or re-mortgage a property in your name without you knowing – and pocket the profits. According to Gov.uk, the Land Registry has successfully prevented more than £92 million worth of property fraud since 2009.
The first quarter of 2016 saw the proportion of attempted mortgage fraud committed by identity thieves increasing to 6% – the highest level since 2012, according to Experian.
How can I protect my property?
The Government and the Land Registry have launched a new campaign to raise awareness of property fraud and lay out the steps you can take to protect your property from being fraudulently mortgaged.
The Land Registry has set up a free Property Alert service to protect homeowners from fraud. Signing up for property alerts allows you to monitor your property, and the property of relatives; in fact you can monitor up to 10 properties from your account.
You will automatically be sent an email alert every time there is “significant activity on the property you are monitoring”, for example if a new mortgage is taken out against it. The alert will tell you what the activity is, when it happened and who the applicant was so you can establish whether the action was fraudulent or not.
Your property will have been automatically registered with the Land Registry if it was bought or mortgaged from 1998 onwards. You can check the register via gov.uk here. Check the register to ensure that your contact details are all up-to-date, so if the worst should happen, you can be alerted.
Who’s at risk?
The Government has warned that you’re more at risk if your identity has been stolen, you rent out your property, you live overseas, your property is currently empty, your property isn’t mortgaged or if the property is not registered with the Land Registery.
There has also been a rise in cases of fraudsters hacking databases and intercepting emails between home owners and their solicitors to capture their bank details, or pose as the solicitor and give false bank details so that people unwittingly deposit money for the purchase of their property into the fraudster’s bank account.
The Telegraph reported on one instance where a couple who were buying their first home together lost £299,000 due to property fraud after they paid money into an imposter’s bank account when they believed they were paying their solicitor.
How to prevent email interception
To ensure this does not happen to you, request that your conveyancer confirms their bank details over the phone or by post to ensure that emails have not been hacked or intercepted and replaced with bogus account details.
Here at When You Move, we use the most modern technology advancements in KYC and AML to protect you case. Our legal staff are fully trained in managing clients’ money to minimise the risk of fraudulent activity or threat to your money.