Could you be a victim of property fraud? – What is it and how to avoid it

Don't be tricked out of £100,000

It can be scary watching your savings disappear overnight when you buy your first home. Unfortunately, an increasing number of homeowners are watching more than their savings disappear due to property fraud.

Related: The cost of moving house – and how you can make savings

According to experts at ABC Finance property fraud have left homeowners in England and Wales tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket. A freedom of information request submitted by ABC Finance to the UK Land Registry found that they had received twice as many fraud claims as they prevented since 2009.

‘The value of successful frauds of property sales have more than tripled – from £7m in 2013 to £25m in 2017,’ explains Paula Higgins, founder and CEO, at HomeOwners Alliance. ‘Email and IT systems (especially those of conveyancers) are being attacked continuously.’

How do you become a victim of property fraud?

Unfortunately, since land certificates became obsolete, and all property titles in England and Wales are now published online which  has made it easier for scammers.

Property fraud 1

Image credit: Ti-Media

The most harmful way that a fraudster can go after your home is requesting a change to the Land Registry to transfer assets to their ownership. They could also impersonate the homeowner for financial gain.

For example, a fraudster could take a mortgage out using the homeowner’s identity. The first the mortgage lender will be aware of This when the scammer scarpers with the cash, defaulting on their payments.

Property fraud 2

Image credit: Ti-Media

This will leave the homeowners liable for the debts incurred. This can sometimes cost victims upwards of £100,000.

How do you avoid property fraud?

The properties most at risk are those without a mortgage, the property is vacant or being rented.

Property fraud 3

Image credit: Ti-Media

‘If you own a property that is at risk we think the free Land Registry Property Alert service is great,’ says the HomeOwners Alliance. ‘You will get an email alert if there is any activity occurring. But be aware that you need to get in touch with the Land Registry if you note any unusual activity.’

‘For more reassurance, you may want to put a restriction on the title deed of your property. This stops the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage unless a conveyancer certifies the application was made by you,’ they add.

Related: Martin Lewis has an urgent warning for wannabe first-time buyers

Make sure you’re not caught out.

All the latest from Ideal Home