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In its blog, the Land Registry describes a 2017 case, where a mother and daughter were found guilty of committing property fraud on a massive scale. They managed to trick lenders into giving them a £1.2 million bridging loan on a Kensington home, by posing as the owners, who didn’t live in the property. The case is a good example of the lengths modern fraudsters will go - and of just how high the stakes can be. Find out what you need to know about property fraud, and prevent it from happening to you:

What is property fraud?

There are a few main types of property fraud. The first is title theft, in which scammers use fraudulent documents to transfer a property into their name and try to sell or raise a mortgage on it.  

Fraudsters may strike when you are on the cusp of buying or selling a property and trick you into paying funds to them instead of the conveyancer.

There are also investment scams where criminals promise high returns on land or buy-to-let properties, which turn out to be sub-par or even non-existent.

Who is most at risk?

Some people are more at risk than others. You are more likely to become a victim of property fraud if any of the following apply to you:
  • Your property is empty
  • You own property in the UK but live abroad
  • You own a rental property
  • You have been a victim of identity theft
  • Your property is mortgage-free
  • Your property is not registered with the Land Registry

How to prevent property fraud

Firstly, you must ensure that your property or land is registered with the Land Registry and that all of your personal information is up-to-date. Doing this carries the added bonus that if you do become the victim of a scam you may be able to claim compensation from the Land Registry.

You can find out more about registering your property and updating your information on the website.  

The best way to avoid being scammed is to put a restriction on the sale of your property. This means that if anybody tries to sell or mortgage your property, the Land Registry will bar the application unless a solicitor or conveyancer confirms that you made the application.  

The Land Registry also offers a Property Alert system. You will receive an alert if anybody attempts to change your registration, for instance if they try to register new ownership.

Avoiding property investment fraud

Many fraudsters carry property investment fraud. Typically, these scams involve persuading victims to invest in housing projects which will never be built, or to sign up to fake seminars about making money from the property market.  

Avoid investment scams by steering clear of any unsolicited approaches. Be careful if anyone pressurises you to invest in a scheme or stresses that it is only available for a limited time.  

 Make sure to check you are dealing with a legitimate company before handing over your money – in the case of the financial sector, check that they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on the FCA website. And Remember that when it comes to investments, if it looks too good to be true – it probably is.

How to Report Property Fraud

With the proper safeguards in place, you should have nothing to worry about. But, if you think you have fallen victim to property fraud, contact the Land Registry’s property fraud line straight away on 0300 006 7003. You can also get advice from Citizens Advice Bureau or an independent legal adviser or you can report it to the police anti-fraud agency Action Fraud.

Looking to sell in the SE1 area? Then make sure your property is in safe hands. Take a look at our Services for Sellers page to see how we can help you safeguard your funds.