Safe as houses?

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Jonathan Potter

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By Jonathan Potter

The issue of property fraud is gaining more and more exposure in the press as it has escalated dramatically in the last few years. Unfortunately, the risks continue to grow as organised crime sees it as a much more low risk area to target.

Fraud can be committed in a number of scenarios, and two of the most common are as follows:

Scam emails – A fraudster might send out an email to the client from an email address containing only a subtle difference to ours, requesting funds and giving incorrect bank details. The email may advise that the firm has changed its bank details.

We will give you our bank details in our letter at the outset of the transaction. It is highly unlikely we will ever change our bank details. However, if we did, you would be notified by letter. You must never accept an email notification of change of bank details. If you do receive an email requesting funds, call the person you are dealing with to verify the authenticity of the email.

Fraudulent sales - Most Titles are held electronically by the Land Registry on a public register, so more fraudsters are targeting certain properties to impersonate the owner to sell or re-mortgage the property without the real owner’s consent.

Common situations where the risk of this fraud may arise are:

  • Where a property is empty (e.g. after a death)
  • Where the owner is abroad or otherwise absent
  • Where there is no mortgage secured against the property
  • Where a property is rented out
  • Where a relationship has broken down.

There are a number of measures that can be taken to protect you and your property:

  • Register a restriction against the Title to your property whereby the Land Registry will not register any dealing with your property without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that they are satisfied that the person who has signed the relevant documents is the owner of the property;
  • Ensure that your personal details, including your correspondence address, on the Title are up to date;
  • Apply for voluntary registration if your property is unregistered. This will guarantee your title at the Land Registry and, in certain circumstances, entitle you to compensation from the Land Registry should you fall victim to fraud;
  • Sign up to the Land Registry Property Alert. You will be notified by email of any activity relating to your property. This service is free and can be applied for at: https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/ .

If you have any concerns with regard to property fraud and how to mitigate the risks, please contact the Residential Property Department at your local TWM office.

For further information, contact jonathan.potter@twmsolicitors.com

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