Watch out there’s a property scam about!

12th May 2017

A recent One Show feature made me think; many of our clients are in the position to be at risk from a growing property scam.

The One Show featured a gentleman who, purely by chance, discovered that criminals had transferred his property (on which he had no mortgage) into their name prior to instructing its sale by auction.

It was all too easy:

  • His postbox was at the end of a long drive and not visible from his home.  His post had been stolen from the postbox and used, by one of the criminals, to apply for a false passport.
  • The criminal was then able to instruct Land Registry, via a solicitor, to transfer the property ownership into his co-conspirator’s name.
  • The co-conspirator instructed the sale of the property by auction.

The legal owner’s daughter was an estate agent and spotted that the property was for sale during the course of her work.  Thankfully, the sale was stopped and the criminals have been handed jail sentences.

It appears that, since 2009, Land Registry have intercepted 254 similar fraudulent property transfer applications.  Others have succeeded and the property sold without the legal owner’s knowledge.  As you’d expect the sale proceeds quickly disappear.  Thankfully, in such cases the legal owner will not lose their property because the change in ownership is fraudulent, depending on the circumstances the buyer may be entitled to reclaim their money from Land Registry, but not always.

Many of our clients are in the fortunate position to be mortgage free or own property that they let; such properties are particularly vulnerable.

However, it’s simple and straightforward to ensure that you are alerted, by e-mail, if Land Registry receive an application to transfer the ownership of your property.  You can set up an alert by clicking here.  You don’t need to be the legal owner so you can also set up an alert if you are concerned about another property; a vulnerable parent’s home for example.

Identity theft and financial fraud are on the increase; it’s up to all of us to do what we can to protect ourselves and make life as difficult for the fraudsters as we can.

If you are interested you can view The One Show episode from 8th May on the BBC iPlayer (subject to you having a current TV licence of course).