Land Registry launches property fraud line for homeowners

Nia Williams

February 5, 2013

Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ‘stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.

Alasdair Lewis, director of legal services at the Land Registry, said: “Fraud affects all parts of today’s society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38bn each year.

“Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together.

“Our award-winning Counter Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud.

“Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52m but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business.”

Additionally, as part of its commitment to a range of counter-fraud measures, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued.

Around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.

Mark Blackwell, managing director of data specialist xit2, said: “Fraud is creeping up – but only on the back of increased volumes.

“The number of fraudulent cases as a percentage of transactions is actually being pruned back.

“While any crack in security is a potential target for criminals, the financial crisis has forced the mortgage sector to turn over a new leaf. Slowly but surely that is reaping rewards.

“Extra resources like this initiative from the Land Registry will always be welcome. Initiatives such as these demonstrate the importance of homeowners being vigilant.”

The properties most vulnerable to registration or mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free.

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