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How to Protect Your Property from Fraud

Written by Katie Cullen
Written by Katie Cullen
26th January 2017

Homeowners have increasingly been falling victim to a range of sophisticated property fraud tactics developed by scammers.

As a comparison website for some of the UK's most trusted removal companies, we have previously highlighted potential scams from rogue traders outside of our network. But what many people do not realise is that your home and possessions may still be at risk from property fraudsters.

So, what can you do to protect yourself? Comparemymove.com have taken a look at some of the most common property fraud tactics and how you can prepare and protect your home.

What is Property Fraud?

There are three main types of property fraud which will be covered in this article, as well as how to protect yourself:

  • Fraudsters who will try to transfer your property into their name using fake documents.
  • Fraud during the completion of a property sale whereby the scammer will intercept communication and falsify banking details – This may lead you to transfer funds to the scammer instead of your conveyancer or solicitor.
  • Investment scams that seem too good to be true.

Who is At Risk?

You may be potentially at risk from property fraud if you own a house or you are in the process of buying a house. That said, some homeowners will be more at risk than others.

You may be more vulnerable to fraud if your property is empty or rented out. Fraudsters will generally target homes that are not mortgaged or those that are not registered with the Land Registry.

Your property may be unregistered if it has not been mortgaged or sold since 1990. To check if you are listed, and to register, visit the Land Registry website.

Main Types of Scams

Email Hacking

This type of fraud involves someone hacking into your email account and compromising emails between you and your solicitor.

To protect yourself from this scam, make sure you also receive your solicitor's bank details by post and verify them over the phone.

Do not send your bank details via email; either dictate them over the phone in a private capacity, or take them into the solicitors' office.

You should choose your solicitor wisely, too. Check that they are accredited by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and that they are listed as a solicitor by the Law Society.

Investment Scam

Investment scams could be seen as the ‘get-rich-quick' schemes that seem too good to be true... and that's because they usually are.

This type of scam can come in two forms:

  • Land banking – this is when a plot of land is marketed for its investment potential, but would not support development, or the land might not even exist.
  • Buy-to-let - Companies may market certain rental properties to invest in, suggesting they make good returns. The home you invest in will then turn out to either be in poor condition or unoccupied and not making any rental income at all.

Do your research first before investing in anything. Be wary of anything you receive through the mail that suggests amazing returns.

Check out the company – do they have a proper street address and landline number?

If you are investing in land or property, make sure you view the lot first before parting with your money. If you are investing in a development, check the status of the planning application with the local authority, and ask locals what they know about the plot of land.

Other Scams

Quick Sale

This is when a quick sale company will agree to buy your home for a certain amount, and then drop the price even further at the last minute.

Online Shopping Platforms

Be wary when searching for properties on shopping and auction marketplaces like eBay and Gumtree. Some listings may seem appealing, but the person who posted the listing may not be the legal owner.

Holiday Homes

Some estate agents have recently gotten into hot water after advertising holiday homes as residential homes. Holiday homes will have certain restrictions that mean you cannot live there year-round.

Protect Yourself Against Scams

If your property is not listed with the Land Registry, you should contact them immediately. If you think you might be at risk of fraud, the first thing you should do is sign up to the Land Registry Property Alert Service.

Alerts will be sent to your email inbox whenever official searches or applications are received against the property you are monitoring.

For example, someone might try and change information about your property, which will prompt an alert to be sent to your inbox.

The alert service won't automatically block any changes, but it will give you plenty of notice to contact the necessary authorities and take action if required.

You can also put a restriction on your property title deeds which safeguards your home until it is certified that you are making changes.

This stops the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property until a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.

What to Do if You Are a Victim of Property Fraud

Contact the Land Registry immediately if you believe you are a victim of property fraud and speak to their specially trained staff for practical guidance on the matter.

To contact the Land Registry Property Fraud Line, call 0300 006 7030, which is open 8.30am-5pm Monday to Friday.

Remember to move house with a safe and trusted removal company from Comparemymove.com. We match your moving requirements with up to six verified moving companies in your local area, saving you up to 70% off moving day costs.

Last updated on Monday 21st August 2017

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