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Preventing property fraud

Preventing property fraud

Fraud is when a criminal chooses to act illegally or deceptively to gain access to money, data, personal items or property for their benefit, and it continues to be a major threat to most of us. In this guide we provide details of two different kinds of fraud that exist in the property market – conveyancing and property title fraud – and what action could be taken to prevent them.

Conveyancing fraud

What is conveyancing fraud?

Conveyancing fraud is when fraudsters target your property purchase in order to trick you into transferring your deposit or even the balance of the purchase. It usually occurs on the day of completion of a property transaction. Fraudsters will send a spoof email that mimics the parties involved in the transfer of money; usually the conveyancing solicitor. Using this method, criminals aim to persuade the buyer to use alternative bank details, to those they already have, and pay money for the purchase of the property into this ‘new’ bank account. The bank account will be owned by the fraudster and, if the payment goes ahead, the money will be stolen.

How to prevent conveyancing fraud

To prevent conveyancing fraud, it’s worth reading information provided by the Law Society here which includes valuable advice including, for example, calling your solicitor – or known contact – by phone before transferring any payment. This ensures the solicitor has requested it and allows for payment details to be checked. 

Always check that you're paying details into the right account. If you're not sure, call your solicitor or estate agent as it's easier for fraudsters are able to intercept emails. 

Property title fraud

What is property title fraud?

Property title fraud is when criminals steal a property owner’s identity or use false documents to illegally transfer property into their name, fraudulently updating HM Land Registry details. Once ownership is transferred the fraudster can sell the property or raise a mortgage against it – often deceiving solicitors and other parties involved in the process.

Properties that are empty for long periods of time, including holiday lets, can be more susceptible to this crime.

How to prevent property title fraud

There are ways to prevent property title fraud including setting up property alerts via HM Land Registry or placing a restriction on the property to avoid it being registered for sale. It's important to remain vigilant throughout the purchasing process so you don't fall victim.

If you think you've been defrauded

If you think you've been a victim of conveyancing fraud, contact your bank and ask them to freeze the funds as soon as possible. It's also important to advise your solictors and estate agent so they're aware of the situation. You can also contact Action Fraud either on their website or via phone on 0300 123 2040.

If you think you've been a victim of property title fraud, it's important to contact Action Fraud as soon as you can. You can also email or contact the property fraud line at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau via 0300 006 7030.