In recent weeks, HM Land Registry has been trying to raise awareness of property and conveyancing fraud in an effort to ensure homeowners don’t get caught out.
Using email newsletters and other marketing materials, the Land Registry has been encouraging homebuyers and homeowners to protect themselves from all eventualities by making sure they are aware of the warning signs of fraud.
One type of fraud the Land Registry says is on the rise is a scam where “criminals steal a property owner’s identity and then attempt to sell or mortgage their property by pretending to be them.”
“If it [the scam] isn’t discovered promptly, the true property owner might find their property has been transferred or sold without their knowledge,” it said.
The Land Registry warns that rectifying such fraud can prove to be “distressing, time-consuming and costly,” which is why homeowners need to ensure they are protected from the very outset.
It adds that people who own properties which are either empty, occupied by private tenants or mortgage-free are the most likely to be targeted by fraudsters.
Another type of fraud which has made headlines in recent months is so-called ‘conveyancing fraud’, whereby hackers will commandeer email communications between homebuyers and conveyancers in a malicious attempt to redirect payments into hacker-controlled bank accounts.
According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, clients and homebuyers lost approximately £7million due to conveyancing fraud last year alone, with many first-time buyers and younger people losing their life savings to this kind of scam.
Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the SRA, said that people should always avoid sharing bank details via email, and should confirm the source of any request for money with their conveyancer either over the phone or in person before sending any funds.
HM Land Registry has published important guidance regarding how to protect yourself from property fraud here.