A high profile case featured by the BBC, in which fraudsters put a five-bedroom home up for sale without the owner’s knowledge, illustrated the need to take advantage of the Land Registry’s anti-fraud measures, property specialist lawyers at Clarke Willmott LLP said today.
The case, which was highlighted on the BBC’s Rip off Britain and The One Show, replayed how two fraudsters used identity theft to transfer the deeds of a property into one of the fraudster’s names following which the property was put up for auction.
Mark Buckerfield, a partner in the Residential Property Team of Clarke Willmott, said: “Property fraud is a real threat and people who have paid off their mortgage are in a particularly vulnerable position as there are no lenders or other interested parties involved. Similarly people who do not live at their property need to be on guard.
“There are protective measures that property owners can take, for example registering with the free Land Registry alert service which ensures they receive a warning as soon as anyone attempts to deal with their property.
“However, although the alert service is an effective warning service it does not automatically block any dealings. In the case highlighted by the BBC, the fraudsters were able to intercept mail, forge signatures and attempt to sell the property through auction with no viewings.
“It shows the lengths fraudsters will go to and for that reason registering a restriction on the property register is more secure. This can be done by a solicitor for around £200 – £250 plus VAT, which is not a huge amount to pay to protect an asset as valuable as a house.
“Sadly it is not something that many people do, but really should be something people consider, especially if they have made their last mortgage payment or the property is vacant or let.”