Thousands help protect themselves against property fraud by signing up for Land Registry’s Property Alert service
In its first year, over 19,000 people have signed up to Land Registry’s free Property Alert service. The award-winning service provides an early warning of possible suspicious activity on someone’s property.
Tracey Salvin, Property Alert Service Manager said:
“The aim of Property Alert is to help people protect their home from fraudsters. There are many people who have no idea that someone could ‘steal’ their home from under them, but unfortunately it can and does happen. For example, someone may pretend to be you using forged documents and sell or mortgage your home. While this is not common, when it does happen it can have devastating consequences for the victim. Imagine finding out that someone else has sold or mortgaged your property without your knowledge and disappeared with the money, leaving you to pick up the pieces. That is why we’ve introduced a number of anti-fraud measures at Land Registry including Property Alert.”
Example where Property Alert helped to detect fraudulent activity:
Ms Anderson (names have been changed) signed up for Land Registry’s Property Alert service and placed an alert on her property. She received an email alert the very next day saying that an application to transfer her property had been made. Ms Anderson knew nothing about this and contacted Land Registry’s property fraud reporting line.
On investigation, we found that the application had been made by Ms Anderson’s father and contained evidence claiming to show that Ms Anderson’s identity had been checked by a solicitor. Ms Anderson claimed she had never been to see this solicitor and denied signing any transfer of her property. She also alleged that her father was intercepting her mail and at one time had taken her passport.
When we contacted the solicitor concerned, he confirmed he had met someone claiming to be Ms Anderson but who, it turned out, must have been an imposter.
As a result of Ms Anderson contacting Land Registry, we formally notified Ms Anderson’s father of her objection to his application. As we didn’t receive any response from him, we cancelled his application. This allowed Ms Anderson to proceed with selling her property as she had planned to do.
What is property fraud?
Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may steal someone’s identity and attempt to gain ownership of a property by using forged documents. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing with the money, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Land Registry has stopped fraud on properties worth more than £70 million since 2009.
How Property Alert works
- You will need to set up an online account with Land Registry which is free – www.gov.uk/property-alert
- You’ll be able to monitor up to ten registered properties in England and Wales. Email alerts will be sent when there is certain activity on the property – you can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if you should seek further advice
- People who are not online can also sign up for Property Alert by calling 0300 006 0478
Properties most likely to be at risk from property fraud:
- Tenanted properties – for example where the landlord lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the landlord’s knowledge
- Empty properties – such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
- Where there are family disputes. For example, in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing
- Properties without a mortgage
Other measures to help protect yourself against property fraud:
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated
- Once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address and/or an address abroad
- Owners can make a request to have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner
- More property fraud advice is available from www.gov.uk/propertyfraud and our video http://goo.gl/5IxfUh