New guide issued to stop property title fraud

The Fraud Advisory Panel, HM Land Registry (HMLR) and the Law Society of England and Wales have issued a guide to help homeowners avoid property title fraud.

The guide, aimed at homeowners and conveyancing clients, details how and why property fraud occurs, and sets out the following precautions that can be taken to keep title deeds secure.

  • Ensuring properties are registered with HMLR. This creates an official record that can be checked by anyone who needs to confirm ownership and gives extra legal protections.
  • Keeping registered details up to date in case HMLR need to send official letters or notices, which could be early signs of fraud.
  • Signing up to HMLR’s free online property alert service, which will give an immediate notification if someone tries to change the register for a property.
  • For those at particular risk of property fraud, applications can be made for a restriction on the title so a conveyancer will need to formally certify any sale.

The guide also outlines the types of properties that are particularly vulnerable to title fraud such as those that are standing empty, have a high value, are not mortgaged, or whose owners have recently died.

In the latest financial year HMLR reportedly received 22 indemnity claims in relation to property title fraud costing £3.5m in compensation.

David Clarke, chair of the Fraud Advisory Panel, said:

Property title frauds are rare, but can have a terrible impact on victims and result in them losing their homes.

By taking the simple steps outlined in this guide homeowners can take steps to protect themselves from property title fraud.

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of this scam should report it to Action Fraud or HM Land Registry.”

Julie Jenkins, head of counter fraud at HMLR, said:

While fraudulent transactions are rare our state guarantee protects homeowners in the event they are victims of registered title fraud.

Our specialist counter fraud teams focus on detection, prevention and education, working with professional conveyancers, such as solicitors, to lower the risk of property fraud occurring.

Remaining vigilant is key to combatting fraud which is why we encourage all homeowners to sign up to alerts via our free property alert and follow the advice outlined in this guide.”

Victims of property title fraud can report any issues at www.actionfraud.police.uk or [email protected]

The full property title fraud guide is available to read here.

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