Financial & Legal News

Is your home at risk of property fraud?

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Property fraud is a reality, whether buying, selling or remortgaging and it can happen to both residential and commercial properties and it is something ITV drama ‘Our House’ tackles from the outset.

The popular programme has become a talking point and follows what happens when a homeowner attempts to uncover how strangers could've bought her home when it had not even been listed for sale in the first place.

Levels of fraud and cyber-crime have inevitably risen during the pandemic as digital transactions have increased across all sectors and conveyancing solicitors are warning clients to be on the look out.

A house is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make with large amounts of money involved and so the process is vulnerable to property fraud.  That is why you need an accredited conveyancing solicitor helping with the process, they know what to be aware of and can help prevent homer or new buyers from being defrauded.

What is property fraud?

What is uncovered in the drama are very real problems which conveyancing solicitors are fully aware of; including fraudsters forging documents to transfer the parents’ home into their own name and a stranger impersonating a homeowner and selling their house to an unsuspecting buyer.

In the cases involving false ownership sometimes it is not until the ‘buyer’ cannot register the title that they realise they have been defrauded, this happens after completion and monies have already been sent to the fraudster.

In hacking cases email exchanges are compromised and when money is due to be transferred the fraudster will pretend to be a solicitor and send their own bank details.

Your home or properties could be more at risk of fraud if it is:

  • Empty
  • Rented out
  • Mortgage-free
  • Buy to Let property

Pearson's Conveyancing Solicitor, Michelle Ong offers some advice to homeowners on how to protect their property from fraud.

“When you move house it’s stressful enough and with various parties involved along the way it’s too easy for people to be scammed, that is why professional solicitors are needed to ensure a smooth, efficient and above all safe sale or purchase.

We explain the process to our clients, have a secure online portal with log in details unique to them and for them to personally check the progress of the job, as well as third party identity security checks.”

“We also advise that a property owner can apply to the Land Registry for a free property alert to notify if someone has applied to change the ownership of the property or refinance it, so we really go all the way to ensure what happened in the ITV drama does not happen on our watch,” adds Michelle.

How to protect your property

  1. Ensure your property is registered with HM Land Registry. Your property will be registered if you have bought or mortgage it since 1998. Registration gives you some protection against fraud and, if you do become a victim and lose money, then you may receive compensation.  If your property isn’t’ registered then you will not able to make a claim for compensation.
  2. Make sure your contact details are up-to-date. You can add up to three addresses including an email address or an address abroad so that you can be contacted about any changes to the register.
  3. Use HM Land Registry Property Alert Service. This will ensure you will be contacted if there is certain activity on your property e.g. if someone tries to take out a mortgage on your property.
  4. Apply for a restriction to prevent any forgery. This gives you an extra layer of security stopping activity on your property such as a transfer or mortgage, unless a solicitor or other professional conveyancer certifies they have checked the identity of the person who has signed the deed.
  5. We can make this application for you to prevent any unauthorised activity giving you peace of mind that your property is secure.

How can we help

For further advice on how to protect your home or property from fraud contact our conveyancing solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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