Property fraud is a growing problem. Property and land are probably the most valuable assets you will own. Sadly this makes them attractive targets for fraudsters. Coodes Solicitors’ Partner and residential property expert Jo Morgan explains how you can protect yourself against the latest property scams.
Property fraud could see your identity stolen and your land and property sold without your knowledge. It is a frightening thought, so what can you do to protect yourself and your most valuable assets? And who is most at risk?
What are the most common property scams?
Unfortunately there are now a whole range of property scams, including fraudsters stealing someone’s identity to sell or mortgage a property they do not own. There are also scams, such as non-existent investment schemes or ‘quick sale’ companies, which offer to buy houses in as little as seven days.
As a property owner, you are more at risk of property fraud if your home is rented out, is empty because you live away, if you are mortgage free or if your property is not registered with the Land Registry.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you.
Register your assets
Some properties are unregistered which means that the deeds may consist of a bundle of documents. We always recommend if you own property or land to register it with the Land Registry to give yourself a state guarantee and proof of ownership. This also makes it more difficult for people to sell or claim your assets without your knowledge.
Keep everything up to date
Once your property is registered, make sure your contact details are up to date so you can easily be contacted by the Land Registry. You can now sign up for the free Land Registry alert service. This guards against fraud by contacting you if there is activity on your account, for example if someone tries to apply for a new mortgage for your property.
Sadly cybercrime directly targeting solicitors and their home-buying clients is on the rise. A recent case that was reported in the news saw a first-time-buyer lose £67,000 when fraudsters hacked into emails sent between him and his conveyancing solicitor.
What can you do if you are worried about property fraud or cybercrime?
Most solicitors will carry out checks on your behalf when you are buying property. At Coodes we check the identity of everyone we deal with and crucially the bank accounts for the solicitors before money is transferred. One of the best methods to combat fraudsters is Lawyer Checker, which checks the history of a seller’s conveyancer, to warn of the possibility of them being bogus.
Awareness is key. Always avoid sending an email with sensitive information, including account numbers and sort codes. Talk to your solicitor to ensure you are comfortable with where your money is going.
For more information on how to secure your assets and for any other residential queries, contact Jo Morgan in the Coodes Solicitors Residential Property team: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01726 874700.