The UK Land Registry has just launched a new Property Fraud Line for homeowners. This means anyone who is concerned that property may be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage will be able to alert the Land Registry straightaway and can speak to specially trained staff and ask for practical advice on what to do next.
The hotline is open five days a week, and the telephone number is 0300 006-7030. Properties most likely to be targeted for mortgage fraud are usually tenanted, empty or mortgage free. Typical examples of people who have fallen victim include buy-to-let landlords, people who don't live in the property because they are currently living abroad, those who are in long-term residential care or hospital, and cases where a relationship has broken down.
It's not unknown for buy-to-let landlords to receive a call from local estate agents letting them know one of their rental properties is being marketed for sale, and there have also been cases where the fraudster has impersonated a dead relative in order to sell the property.
The Director of Legal Services, Alasdair Lewis said:
"Fraud affects all parts of today's society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year. Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together."
Last December the Land Registry’s team won the top prize in the Fraud Prevention Category at the inaugural Fighting Fraud Awards. Part of the land Registry's program includes free restriction for absent homeowners. This program originally began last February, and approximately 5,000 properties have been protected since it began. The restriction requires that a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the person selling or remortgaging the property is the true owner. The Land Registry doesn't charge a fee for homeowners who wish to register this restriction provided they don't live in the property, while owner occupiers need to pay a small fee.
Land registry tips to help owners protect their property from fraud include making sure the property is correctly registered, as if they subsequently become a victim of fraud they may be entitled to compensation. Registrants are also warned of the need to make sure contact details are up to date, and this can include e-mail addresses or addresses abroad.