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Property Fraud – How to avoid it

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Property fraud is a serious ongoing issue in the UK and, despite preventative measures, millions are still lost each year.

The perpetrators of a fraud may seek to fraudulently sell property or take out a fraudulent mortgage against it and make off with the proceeds, with the true owners completely unaware. Read our article here for further details about the likelihood of risk and what you can do to protect your property

The so called “Friday afternoon fraud” is also increasing. Perpetrators will hack into emails between conveyancers and their clients. When a large sum of money is due, usually just before completion, they will send a fake, but genuine looking, email to the client with revised bank account details. Friday is a popular day to move house, the perpetrators know this and make use of the fact that it will be a busy day for all parties.

Once the unsuspecting victim transfers monies, the perpetrators will empty the account and close it down. By the time the client realises that something is amiss it is too late. Unfortunately these types of scams are increasing as email correspondence is more popular than ever.

Be aware, attempts have been made to impersonate anyone involved in a conveyancing transaction including buyers, sellers, conveyancers and lenders.

What can you do to protect yourself?

1. Choose your conveyancer carefully – check the credentials of the firm and person handling your matter, are they registered with the Law Society or Council of Licensed Conveyancers? Are they accredited under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme? Your estate agent may be able to help you in providing the names of local reputable firms.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask your conveyancer for details of the checks they will undertake to reduce the risk of fraud.

3. It is rare that your conveyancer’s bank details will change during a transaction. As such check, check and double check bank details before sending monies to your conveyancer. Do they match the details your conveyancer has given you before? Call your conveyancer directly before sending any money. Your conveyancer will be aware of the risks associated with fraud and will not mind you double checking this information.

4. Consider sending a small amount to the account first and telephone your conveyancer to check they have received this.

5. Check any emails carefully, there is some helpful guidance on to how to spot a fake email

6. As detailed in our above article:

  • Keep your address for service up to date – See Land Registry Public Guide to “Keeping your address for service up to date”. Amending your address is simple and free.
  • If you are intending to leave your property empty for a significant period of time, such as for redevelopment purposes you should consider registering an alternative address for service.
  • If your property is rented – consider appointing a managing agent.
  • Register a restriction which prevents dispositions without the consent of a solicitor. This can be registered at no cost and is highly recommended.
  • Sign up to the Land Registry Property Alert Service

If you need any further help or assistance contact one of our specialist teams.

If you think you are a victim of fraud contact the HM Land Registry Property Fraud Line:

reportafraud@landregistry.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 006 7030
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm

Jenny Woodruff

Posted:

Jenny Woodruff

Partner

Jenny is a Partner and head of the Residential Conveyancing Team. She has extensive knowledge of the conveyancing process, including: dealing with freehold and leasehold sales & purchases; new build purchases; remortgages; transfers of equity; shared ownership; help to buy transactions & general property advice.