Published: 04/03/2023 By Allan Fuller
Alarmed by reports of property theft and fraud and how this might affect our clients and purchasers I spoke to Ian Hay of Murray Hay solicitors to see if he had any useful advice as to what a property owner might do to protect themselves and this is the advice he gave.
Property fraud comes in many guises but two of the main ones are:
Cloning emails and changing bank details
This is increasingly common whereby a fraudster will clone an email and change the bank details, normally it will be the solicitors’ email they will have cloned but it can be the clients. They will also have set up a bogus account and will provide the bogus account details to the unsuspecting client who will then send the completion funds to the fraudster never to be seen again. This is why at Murray Hay we would normally only give the bank details out at the start of a transaction, have a test transfer and advise clients that we will not change these details and also advise clients to call us to double check before sending funds.
Impersonating the owner and selling the property or obtaining a mortgage on it
This is again much more common than people would think and is particularly common when properties are empty for any period or are let out but can even happen when you are living there.
The fraudster will accumulate various documents , some genuine and some fake in order to represent that they are the owner and will either arrange a loan to be secured on the property or will even sell the property.
The Land Registry have devised a simple tool to combat this and it is again very important that people are aware of this as it is a very straightforward process to protect their property and is The Land Registry Property Alert Service.
All you need to do is tap in www.gov.uk/guidance/property-alert on your device and it sets out the instructions how to set it up for your property or properties.
It is free and involves a few simple steps to set up an account and register your property, you can monitor up to 10 properties and you will be sent an email by the Land Registry should there be any activity on the property you are monitoring. It will tell you the type of activity, who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received.
It won’t stop fraud from happening but it will alert you, tell you who to contact and enable you to act quickly (and maybe sleep better at night!).