Q. I am hearing about a new worrying threat to home owners known as ‘Property Fraud’ and wondered if you would kindly shed a little more light on this and tell me how I can protect myself and my assets from this awful crime?
A. House Theft – no not burglary but actually stealing a house has now sadly become a reality. Property Fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may steal someone’s identity and attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing with the money leaving the owner to deal with the consequences. Thankfully Land registry is on high alert for this type of fraud and in the last five years have stopped property fraud of more than 66 million. So who is most at risk? Tenanted properties for example where the Landlord lives elsewhere a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the Landlords knowledge. Vacant properties are also at risk, where the owner is overseas perhaps also properties where there is a family dispute and there are co-owners – one owner may try to arrange a re-mortgage without the knowledge of the other. And finally properties without a mortgage too are at considerable risk. So what can you do to prevent this happening to you? Six months ago Land Registry launched their Property Alert Service – a free service which provides an early warning of suspicious activity on your property. Land Registry introduced Property Alert to help home owners protect their most valuable asset from this new type of fraud and with more than 12,000 people already signed up they are keen to spread the word and advise all homeowners to register for this service. If you have registered and do become a victim and suffer financial loss you may be compensated. Owners can also request to have a restriction entered on their property. This means that they will need a solicitor to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
For more information about this service and to register go to: – www.gov.uk/propertyfraud