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Protect your property from fraud

July 2016

By pretending to be you, fraudsters can try to sell or mortgage your property. We consider what you can do to protect yourself.

Background

The frequency of cases of property fraud is increasing.  In an ever changing world where identity theft is an ongoing problem, some fraudsters have moved their focus to property fraud.  Thankfully instances of such fraud are still relatively rare, but where they occur the losses can be substantial.  Since September 2009 the Land Registry have successfully prevented fraudulent applications on 180 properties worth in total around £80 million.

What is property fraud?

Property fraud often involves the sale or mortgaging of a property to produce cash, where the seller or mortgagor is not the true owner of the property.  The fraudster may steal the identity of the true owner, posing as them in order to sell or mortgage the property.  Such transactions may not be discovered until after completion, at which point title may have been transferred without the true owner being aware of the transaction at all.

Are you at risk?

There are some higher risk situations as follows:

  • If the property is unoccupied (particularly where the owner is geographically distant to the property, deceased or in a care home, for example). 
  • If the property is rented out.
  • If the property in not registered at the Land Registry. 
  • If the property is not subject to an existing mortgage.
  • If you have a property that fits into any of these categories, you should be alert to the possibility of fraudulent activity, and take such steps as you can to try and prevent any fraudulent activity.

How can you help guard against it?

There are various steps that can be taken to help avoid becoming a victim of these scams.  In brief they are: 

  • Sign up to the Land Registry's property alert service, where you are notified of any activity on the title to up to 10 properties.  This is free and easy to set up.
  • Apply to register any unregistered property with the Land Registry. 
  • Keep your contact details up to date with the Land Registry, so that you receive any notices relevant to the property. 
  • Apply for a restriction on the register of the property.

Further details of these possibilities are included in the Land Registry's helpful guidance note:

The Land Registry has also published a short video on this subject here

How Wrigleys can help

We can help if you would like us to look at any aspect of this article or if you want to understand further about this new threat. 

 

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Rachel Meredith or any member of the Wrigleys' Property team on 0113 244 6100.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors

 

July 2016

 

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