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