How Can I Protect My Property From Fraudsters?
- AuthorSara Garnett
We are all aware of the need to protect our identity and our online accounts but how many of us have taken steps to protect our property which, in most cases, is probably the most valuable asset we own.
Fraudsters may try to “steal” your property by selling it or taking out mortgages against it and there has been an increase in the occurrence of fraudsters targeting the properties of both individuals and companies.
The risk of being a victim of property fraud should be treated as seriously as the risk of your bank account being hacked.
Who Is At Risk?
If you have had your identity stolen you are at a higher risk of also being a victim of property fraud as the fraudster can use your stolen identity to convince a solicitor or the land registry that they are the owner of the property.
If your property is empty or is rented out, you are also at a high risk of being the victim of property fraud as documents may be forged and submitted to the Land Registry.
A property owner who has gone into hospital for an extended period or has moved into a care home is also at risk.
Personal representatives who are selling a property for the estate should also be extremely vigilant as fraudsters have been known to target these properties after reading the obituaries.
What Can I Do?
Although conveyancers and the Land Registry are under an obligation to carry out checks on the identity of people making an application for a dealing with the property, this is not fool proof and does not help when your identity has been stolen.
The Land Registry have a record of a name only and there have been cases where someone with the same name as the property owner has successfully made the fraudulent application.
There are steps that property owners can take to safeguard their rights.
- If your property is still unregistered, you can arrange for it to be voluntarily registered with the Land Registry, which will enable you to take advantage of the protective measures mentioned below.
- You should keep your address updated at the Land Registry. You can now have up to three addresses for service registered at the Land Registry and this can include an email address.
- You can sign up to the free Land Registry property alert which means you will receive an email if there is significant activity on the property you are monitoring. This will help you detect fraudulent activity at an early opportunity. You do not have to be the owner of the property and you can get alerts for up to ten properties which is useful for monitoring relatives’ properties as well as your own.
- If you think that you are at a high risk of property fraud you may wish to consider registering a restriction at the Land Registry which would prevent any application being registered unless a solicitor or conveyancer certifies that the application was made by you.
If you think that you have been the victim of a property fraud or would like to speak with us about ways in which you can protect your property you should not hesitate to contact our property team who will be more than happy to help.