We last wrote about fraud in July as we had seen an increase in fraudulent applications for homes by prospective residents. However, it must be remembered that the vast majority of people that want to rent a property are very honest and straightforward. The increase in this type of fraud can only put down to the lack of supply of homes: people are therefore motivated to have what I would term as ‘a special relationship with the truth’, as desperation to find a new home kicks in.
There is another type of fraud – title fraud, which seems to be coming up in the media on a more regular basis. Title fraud is where a criminal steals a property owner’s identity and changes the property title from the owner’s name to theirs.
How does title fraud work
Sadly it is very easy to do, but it does take time to instigate, so there are opportunities to make sure you are protected.
It starts when a target home is picked – this could be any home in the UK. Prime targets are those homes without a mortgage. This information is freely available since all the details about you and your home are listed with the Land Registry.
Next the perpetrators will have ID documents made in your name but with a picture of someone else. The main documents would be a driving license and passport.
Once these are made up, one of two things will happen:
- If the property is empty, it is likely to go on the market
- If you are still in the property, a mortgage will be applied for.
If the property is sold and the title of the property is transferred you have very little recourse .
If a mortgage is taken out on the property, the first you would know about it is when demand for payment lands on your doormat. Apart from dealing with the outcome of sorting out the money ‘owed’, your credit score will be shot.
How can you protect yourself against this type of fraud
Firstly be aware that there are some awful people out there and it is most important to keep your personal information safe.
- If you are renting a house out make sure that your post is redirected. Data is currency in a world that most of us don’t inhabit
- Register for alerts with HM land registry. The service alerts homeowners if there is any suspicious fraudulent activity concerning the ownership of their property – in particular if someone applies to change the register of the property. However there is a 3- 6 month delay after the fraud has been initiated.
- Put a restriction on your title. You can stop HM Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you. Your conveyancer or solicitor may charge you for providing a certificate if one is required by a restriction on your property.
- If you have been a victim of ‘identity theft’. i.e. someone has used your name to open new accounts, get credit or buy services, you will start getting bank letters, bills or letters from debt collectors that you know nothing about. Contact your bank straight away and let them know. Once your ID is out there you are more liable to fraud.
- If you lose your passport or any ID documents make sure to register with one of the many companies that can give you information on a more timely basis. Just search online for ‘title fraud protection’.
- Get registered on Rightmove to give you an alert if your property is put on the market.
If you need any more information or guidance just book for a free 30 consultation with me!