July is scams awareness month led by Citizens Advice.
One type of fraud that can result in the victim being defrauded out of their most valuable asset – their home – is property fraud. This is why Land Registry works closely with agencies such as the police to try to detect and prevent fraud before it occurs. However, no system is ever 100 per cent effective in preventing fraud which is why we have introduced several measures home-owners can take to reduce their risk from property fraud.
What is property fraud?
- Property fraud is where fraudsters try to “steal” your property, most commonly by pretending to be you and selling or mortgaging your property without your knowledge
- Property is usually the most valuable asset people own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be an attractive target for fraudsters
Since 2009 Land Registry has stopped the registration of fraudulent transactions against properties worth more than £74 million.
What can you do to protect your property?
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated. Find out more about registering land
- Once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address and/or an address abroad
- Sign up for Land Registry’s free Property Alert service that helps owners to guard against property fraud. The service allows you to monitor up to 10 registered properties in England and Wales. We will send you an email alert when there is certain activity on the monitored property. Should you get an alert, you can judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice – gov.uk/property-alert
- Owners can make a request to have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner
Which properties are most at risk?
- Tenanted properties – for example where the landlord lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the landlord’s knowledge
- Empty properties – such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
- Where there are family disputes. For example, in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing
- Properties without a mortgage
Land banking scams happen when people are fooled into buying plots of land which they are told have good investment value in the expectation of future development which doesn’t then happen. Read our recent blog on this.
More property fraud advice is available from www.gov.uk/propertyfraud