A high profile case featured by the BBC, in which fraudsters put a five-bedroom home up for sale without the owner’s knowledge, illustrates the need to take advantage of the Land Registry’s anti-fraud measures.
The case, which was highlighted on the BBC’s Rip off Britain and The One Show, replayed how two fraudsters used identity theft to transfer the deeds of a property into one of the fraudster’s names following which the property was put up for auction.
Mark Buckerfield, partner in our Taunton residential property team, said: “Property fraud is a real threat and people who have paid off their mortgage are in a particularly vulnerable position as there are no lenders or other interested parties involved. Similarly people who do not live at their property need to be on guard.
“There are protective measures that property owners can take, for example registering with the free Land Registry alert service which ensures they receive a warning as soon as anyone attempts to deal with their property.
“However, although the alert service is an effective warning service it does not automatically block any dealings. In the case highlighted by the BBC, the fraudsters were able to intercept mail, forge signatures and attempt to sell the property through auction with no viewings. Fortunately the victim stumbled across the advertisement three days before the auction and was able to stop the men in their tracks.
“It shows the lengths fraudsters will go to and for that reason registering a restriction on the property register is more secure. This can be done by a solicitor for around £200 – £250 plus VAT, which is not a huge amount to pay to protect an asset as valuable as a house.
“Sadly it is not something that many people do, but really should be something people consider, especially if they have made their last mortgage payment or the property is vacant or let.”
The HM Land Registry have a Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030 for anyone who believes a fraud has been committed against their property.