Over the last 18 months, a team of fraudsters have managed to sell a total of 21 properties for some £700,000 – unbeknown to the actual owner, Severn Trent Water.
The gang of four were found guilty this month after a long-running investigation.
While property fraud is rare, it does happen, and when it does, it can cost the unsuspecting homeowner hundreds of thousands of pounds.
In this particular case, the gang were undervaluing the properties and selling them to associates, who would then put the property back on the market to be sold at full price.
Property fraud can also happen to individual owners and property investors. The most common types of fraud involve the theft of the owner’s identity, after which the property is sold or remortgaged by someone pretending to be you.
This is most likely to happen when the owner is away and the property is left empty for some time. Property is also at risk if it is mortgage-free.
The consequences of property fraud are costly and stressful, so the Land Registry advises taking preventative steps to ensure your most valuable asset is safe and sound.
Property owners should therefore sign up to the Registry’s free Property Alert Service. This alerts homeowners to any activity involving their property, for example, if it was the subject of a mortgage or a sale. These types of alerts have successfully stopped hundreds of thousands of pounds of fraud in its tracks, according to the Registry.
How the Property Alert works
Homeowners registered with the Property Alert Service can monitor up to 10 properties, as well as others if they are owned by a relative. However, you will need to have the property registered with the Land Registry before you can begin receiving alerts.
You will receive email alerts when there is certain activity on the properties you are monitoring. The alert will inform you of the type of activity – such as if a new mortgage is taken out against it or if an application has been made to change the register, who the applicant is, and the date and time it has been received.
If you suspect that a fraud is taking place, the email has all the information needed to contact the relevant authority.
To sign up to the Property Alert Service, click here.