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How to protect yourself from property fraud

How to protect yourself from property fraud

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. The property market is especially susceptible to fraud because of the large amounts of money being moved. 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. 

What is conveyancing fraud?

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. 

What is 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.

What should you do if you think you've been defrauded?

If you think you've been a victim of conveyancing fraud, contact your bank and ask them to freeze the funds as soon as possible. It's also important to advise your solictors and estate agent so they're aware of the situation. You can also contact Action Fraud either on their website or via phone on 0300 123 2040.

If you think you've been a victim of property title fraud, it's important to contact Action Fraud as soon as you can. You can also email or contact the property fraud line at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau via 0300 006 7030.