4th May 2018
In an age of ever growing and increasingly more sophisticated cybercrime, ID theft, fraud and money laundering, more and more of us are being vigilant in the emails we accept, where we send our money, and monitoring our credit rating on the numerous ID theft protection web sites such as Experian. How many of us, however, think to protect what is our single largest asset, our home?
A recent spate of high profile legal cases have exposed the risk posed to home owners and landlords from unscrupulous fraudsters, as well as highlighting the increase of these types of fraud.
Two cases, in particular, should be noted:-
In this case a fraudster posing as the owner of a property in Hammersmith instructed a lawyer and estate agent on his behalf to advertise and dispose of the property. He said he was living in Dubai and needed a speedy sale as the property was unoccupied. A quick sale took place and completion monies sent to a Dubai bank account.The fraud only came to light when the real owner walked past his property and saw builders ripping out the kitchen.
A fraudster impersonating the owner of an unoccupied and unmortgaged property purported to sell the property to a development company. The developer planned refurbishment and onward sale, however, the fraud was discovered by the Land Registry.
Protect your identity from ID theft by maintaining robust and secure passwords on all of your accounts and electronic devices. Take care on how you dispose of personal information such as old bills and whom you provide personal details to.
More than 50,000 home owners have signed up to the Land Registry’s free Property Alert Service since its introduction in March 2014. This free service is one of a number of measures introduced by the Land Registry with the aim of helping the public protect themselves from fraud. According to National Statistics fraud has increased significantly year on year since 2012. It is now more important than ever to be cautious and vigilant when it comes to protecting your assets and in particular your home.
The Land Registry’s innovative system allows home owners to detect fraud and fraudulent activity as early as possible by sending them email alerts when certain activity is carried out on the monitored property. Monitored activities include a mortgage being taken out against the property, or an application to change the ownership details. Each home owner can monitor up to ten registered properties in England and Wales. This is particularly useful for landlords as rented out properties are more at risk. A property is also more likely to be targeted by fraudsters if the property is empty, there is no mortgage secured against the property and if the property is not registered at the Land Registry.
The property alert service from the Land Registry is a very useful tool to provide an early warning of suspicious activity, however it does not automatically prevent fraud from happening. It does not prevent an action from taking place but it does notify an owner as soon as an unregulated activity is attempted. There are a number of options for those looking to safeguard their property and simple steps can be taken to try and protect yourself:-
It is also important to be vigilant when buying a property. It is the responsibility of the seller’s solicitor to properly identify their client. However, a good fraudster can obtain false id documents.
There are obvious red flags to look out for:-
In short, if something doesn’t feel right then speak to your lawyer and ask them to make further enquiries.
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