How to avoid being a victim of property fraud

21st July 2016

Property fraud is where fraudsters try to ‘steal’ your property, most commonly by pretending to be you and selling or mortgaging your property without your knowledge. Since 2009, the Land Registry has stopped fraud on properties worth more than £80 million.

Julie Tomasik, director and head of residential property at Ansons Solicitors in Cannock and Lichfield, advises how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of property fraud.

Who is at risk?

You are more at risk of property fraud if:

• your identity has been stolen;

• you rent out your property;

• you live overseas;

• the property is empty;

• the property is not mortgaged; or

• the property is not registered with the Land Registry.

Ways to protect yourself

There are several steps you can take to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged:

• Ensure your property is registered with the Land Registry – Your property will be registered if you bought or mortgaged it since 1998. Your lawyer can check the register if you are unsure.

• Keep your contact details with the Land Registry up to date – You should tell the Land Registry if information in the register is incorrect, or if you change your contact address.

• Sign up for the free Land Registry property alert service – You can ask to receive a notice if there is any application to to change the register of your property, such as using your property for a mortgage. This will not automatically block any changes to the register but will alert you when something changes so that you can take action. You can get alerts for up to 10 registered properties in England and Wales and there is no fee. You do not even have to own the property, so you could monitor the property of an elderly relative, for example. If you receive an alert about activity that seems suspicious you should contact the Land Registry or a lawyer immediately.

• Put a restriction on your title – You can stop the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you. This is advisable if there is any suspicious activity or you think you may be at risk of property fraud.

If you think you could be a victim of property fraud contact the Land Registry property fraud line or a lawyer straight away. You may be able to stop the fraud or claim compensation.

For more information contact Julie Tomasik, head of residential property at Ansons Solicitors, on 01543 267 988 or email Ansons Solicitors has offices in Lichfield and Cannock, Staffordshire.