What are the risks of fraud to my property?
Sadly, according to the Law Society, property fraud is on the rise and there are risks to your property. This can happen by criminals impersonating you or stealing your identity to commit title fraud or selling your house without your knowledge.
Fraudsters can pretend to be sellers, buyers, conveyancers, or lenders to gain information or obtain documentation from you to commit fraud.
Title fraud is when someone steals a homeowner’s ID and amends the title to be in their name instead. Similarly, someone can steal another’s identity and sell their house by using the stolen ID.
Can someone sell my house without me knowing?
Yes, there have been cases where people have sold other people’s houses without them knowing.
Fraudsters are clever and tend to target people who are sole owners of properties because it is easier to impersonate one person. It is especially easier to target unmortgaged properties because they don’t have the added security of mortgage lenders doing their own identification checks.
Other properties that can be at risk are those with absent owners such as landlords, people living abroad, or people who have died. Similarly, if homeowners are in hospital for a long time or are living in a care home, their house will be unoccupied for a long period which leaves it open to the risk of fraud.
How can you protect your property from property fraud?
There are certain steps you can take to protect your property from fraud. The most obvious point to note is that you are diligent and careful with who you provide your personal information to.
You may be at risk if your identity has been stolen for instance. Therefore, ensure that you keep it in a safe place and if you find it is missing, make sure you report it. Similarly, you should securely dispose of any old documents that have your personal information detailed such as invalid ID or letters with your address.
If you live abroad or you are in long-term care, then it is important to ask a trusted family member or friend to check on the property regularly.
When selling your property, double-check that the conveyancer or solicitor that you use is regulated and that they are a legitimate company. You can do this by checking on their website, asking them if they are regulated, or going to the regulatory body's website to see if the company is registered.
You can also take other measures such as putting a restriction on your property title so that HM Land Registry does not register a sale or mortgage without a conveyancer or solicitor verifying that it is definitely you who is selling the property.
In addition, you can sign up to Land Registry alerts
which notify you if any activity has been made on the property. If you are alerted to suspicious activity, you can report this.