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We have all heard of identity theft. If you have not been a victim, you probably know someone who has. In most cases, it involves a credit card or a bank account, but as financial crime has grown ever more sophisticated, fraudsters have increasingly begun targeting bricks and mortar.
Criminals can use your identity to forge documents purporting to give them ownership. They will then attempt to raise a mortgage or even sell the property before disappearing with the money and leaving you to sort out the mess.
Which properties are at risk?
All properties are at risk, but among the most vulnerable are:
- Mortgage-free properties.
- Properties where the owner lives elsewhere – typically rental properties and holiday lets – where the occupant may be able to pose as the owner.
- Vacant properties.
- Unregistered properties (where the property has never been registered with the Land Registry).
HM Land Registry Property Alert
To help reduce property fraud risk, HM Land Registry provides a free, online monitoring service called Property Alert. It covers any property situated in England or Wales, which is registered with HM Land Registry.
After a quick and easy sign-up and verification process, Property Alert allows you to register up to 10 properties, enabling you to keep tabs on your main home, as well as rental and holiday property. And as you do not have to own a property to set up an alert, you can also keep an eye out for others, perhaps elderly relatives.
How does it work?
Once a property is registered, you will automatically receive an email alert as soon as an official search or application is received. Should you receive an alert and the activity seems suspicious, you must take swift action. The email will signpost you with regard to who to contact.