The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in scams. With scammers exploiting COVID-19 fears, now particularly is the time to ensure that you and your property are sufficiently protected.
Property fraud can be committed on both commercial and residential property and the following factors are likely to increase the risk of fraud:
- you are not resident in the United Kingdom
- the property is rented out
- your identity has been stolen
- the property is vacant
- the property is not mortgaged
- the property is not registered at HM Land Registry.
Many individuals are unaware that the information held by HM Land Registry is available to view by anyone, including scammers, via HM Land Registry’s website.
As a result, scammers can easily establish who the property owner is, their correspondence address, mortgage details and in some cases a sample of the property owner's signature. Accordingly, scammers can potentially impersonate a property owner in the attempt to fraudulently sell or re-mortgage a property.
HM Land Registry advises that one of the main ways to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged is by entering an anti-fraud restriction on the title register.
An anti-fraud restriction will require that any application to change the property register is accompanied by a certificate from the registered proprietor’s solicitor stating that they are satisfied that the person who has signed the documents is the same person registered as the registered proprietor.
This restriction acts as a deterrent to scammers as the presence of an anti-fraud restriction designates that the title register cannot be changed without independent certification of the registered proprietor’s identity.
HM Land Registry also provides a Property Alert service to support the fight against property fraud. Once registered to the service, you will be notified via email when certain activity occurs on your property, allowing you to take action if necessary.
You should also ensure the details held at HM Land Registry are accurate and correct, including your name and address. Where, for example, you marry, voluntarily change your name or change your notification address you should endeavour to notify the Land Registry.
If you think you may be at risk or would like to protect your land or property from property fraud we will be happy to advise you.