Over the past few months, we’ve been testing and refining our new free Property Alert service which will help people detect any unexpected activity on their property which could be fraudulent. We’re now ready to expand the ‘beta’ or limited trial period and are asking people to sign up to test the service more widely.
So why would you be interested in using the service? Well, while the likelihood of being a victim of property fraud is low, the impact can be huge – imagine finding out that someone else has sold your home and you knew nothing about it!
What is property fraud?
There are various different types of property fraud. For example, a fraudster might use forged documents to try to convince a solicitor or mortgage lender that they are in fact the owner. They could then either sell the property, or raise a mortgage, and steal the money.
Alternatively, the fraudster might use identity theft to impersonate a seller, and then sell to an innocent buyer. The fraudster then obtains the money from the sale of the house.
If a fraudster tries to change the registered title of a property held by Land Registry as part of this fraud it is known as ‘Registration Fraud’.
You can help to make sure that you do not become a victim of property fraud by:
So what is Property Alert?
Property Alert is one of a series of measures we are taking in order to protect the most valuable asset that many of you own. It is a free monitoring service which will notify you if there’s been certain activity on a property. Alerts will be sent to you when we receive an application to change the register as well as for official searches. You can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if you should seek further advice. For example, if you receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you haven’t applied for a mortgage, you may want to seek 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. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.
The benefits of Property Alert are:
- it can provide an early warning of suspicious activity
- it allows you to take immediate action if something happens to your property that you are not expecting
- it’s free
How do you sign up for Property Alert?
You’ll be able to monitor up to three properties through an online account which you can sign up for using the following link: Property Alert.
Property Alert will initially be open to 20,000 users on a first-come, first- served basis for a trial period. We will collate feedback from users and make any necessary changes to the service before it goes fully live. We’re hoping that we’ve created an intuitive service that will be easy to use – but we need your feedback to make it as good as possible. Please let us know what you think.
We know there are properties which are more at risk from property fraud (shown below):
- 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 where the owner lives elsewhere. For example, tenants could gain access to the landlord’s information and provide proof of residence at an address. They could then use this to take out credit against the property or sell the property without the owner being aware.
- Properties where there is no mortgage. According to our records, more than 9 million residential properties are mortgage-free – that’s nearly half of all registered residential properties.
You can visit our property fraud page to find out more information about property fraud.
We’d also like to hear from you, if you or anyone you know has been a victim of property fraud. Please tell us your story so we can share it and help prevent others from becoming victims (please change any names to protect confidentiality).