Land Registry:How to Avoid Being a Victim of Property Scams

July 6, 2016

Conveyancing Deposit Redirection Fraud

We’ve been banging on, as you are well aware dear Reader, about the risks around property fraud for a while here and here.

We welcome the initiative from the Land Registry.

We were contacted this week by the Government Department responsible for registering all new residential purchases in England and Wales urging us to help our clients avoid becoming victims of property fraud.

The more people are aware the less likely to fall victim of property fraud. We’re happy to raise awareness.

Property Fraud

Property fraud is where the fraudsters try to “steal” your property by pretending to be the owner. You could have a mortgage registered against you which you did not take out or even worse have the property sold from under your feet (i.e. without your knowledge)

The Land Registry has successfully stopped fraud on properties worth more than £80 million. It is also true to say (although we do not have precise figures) that the Land Registry has paid out many millions in compensation to victims of property fraud.

Property Scam Awareness

So, what does the Land Registry suggest you do to counteract the fraudsters?

There are three strands to its advice

6 Reasons Why You May Fall Prey to Scammers

It is reassuring that for the most of us the scammers would find it almost impossible to sell our properties without our knowledge.

But if you fall within six higher risk categories you must take extra care be vigilant.

The 6 higher risk Categories are:

  1. Your identity has been stolen
  2. You rent out your property
  3. You live overseas
  4. Your property is empty
  5. There is no mortgage on your property
  6. Your property is unregistered at the Land Registry.

What Precautions Can You Take to Avoid the Risk?

  1. Land Registry’s Property Alert Scheme

You can take a few simple measures to protect yourself if you fall into any of the above categories.

If you sign up for the Property Alert scheme, you will be notified if anyone tries to change (e.g. add a new mortgage) the title to your property.

You can sign up here and you can do so for free up to a maximum of 10 properties.

Please note you will still need, once alerted, to contact the Land Registry that the application should be stopped.

  1. Enter a Restriction on Your Title

You will need to enlist the help of your Conveyancer for this one as an extra layer of security.

You can prohibit the Land Registry registering either a sale or a mortgage unless a certificate certified by your Conveyancer accompanies any application.

This is a free service and you can see more here.

  1. Absentee Owners

There are separate forms to complete depending on whether you reside in your property or do not. If you live at the property the fee is £40 and you can apply here.

If you do not live at the property there is no fee. You can apply here.

Both forms should be sent to the Land Registry, Citizen Centre, PO Box 74 Gloucester GL14 9BB.

Prefer a Property Scam Avoidance Cartoon?

There is a good little video to ties all the loose ends together for you which you can access below.

What If It’s Too Late?

If you have unfortunately been a victim of property fraud then consult with your Solicitor first or contact the Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030 or reportafraud@landregistry.gov.uk

Do your bit: make Property Scams Awareness Month a success and protect your most valuable assets safely and securely from those pesky and cowardly fraudsters.


 

 

 

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