I recently spent an interesting two days working with officers from Blackpool South Police station as part of Operation Rogue Trader. The purpose of the week is to identify and arrest rogue traders and make communities aware of this type of crime. My role was to raise public awareness of property fraud by talking to individuals and handing out property fraud advice leaflets.
After meeting the team of police officers, community support officers and Blackpool Trading Standards, we were all briefed on the day’s operation. I was asked to give some context as to Land Registry’s involvement in the operation and how our services could help prevent property fraud.
We jumped in a ‘panda car’ – the police still use that term apparently – and headed out. Our first stop was a care home where we dropped off some of our Property Alert leaflets and spoke to residents and staff. After this, we went door-to-door around vulnerable neighbourhoods in which the residents are predominantly elderly or retired and often living alone. The police officer I was with explained that these areas were often targeted by fraudsters and rogue traders. Indeed, several of the properties we visited had recently been targeted.
Many of the people I spoke to were unaware that property fraud existed or that such a thing was even possible. As a result, raising awareness of this type of crime in my local community has been particularly important. Many of the homeowners I chatted with are planning to sign up to Property Alert and took leaflets for friends and neighbours who weren’t in. Several are now taking steps to register their property to safeguard their interests.
I spoke to one family who had recently been the victim of a rogue trader who had taken over £8,000 to pave their small front garden. The completed work was sub-standard and had caused them considerable distress. This unfortunate event had convinced the family to move into a flat. They planned to let their daughter, who lives in London, manage their affairs and rent the property out. I provided information about signing up to our free Property Alert service and applying free of charge for a restriction to prevent forgery.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it’s a great opportunity for different government agencies to co-operate and raise awareness of fraud prevention. The chance to spend a day with the police who see the effects of fraud first hand was a good reminder of just how important Land Registry’s fraud prevention measures are. The experience has also made the things I do in my day-to-day job all the more real.
For more information about property fraud and how to prevent it – www.gov.uk/propertyfraud