Any property fraud will, by definition, involve large amounts of money. It’s also very embarrassing for those it’s perpetrated against – resulting in very little PR with agents and solicitors try to deal with it quietly.
It’s been dragged into the limelight by a Court of Appeal ruling last week that, no surprise here, it’s vendor’s solicitors who are in the firing line and that the buying and selling process needs updating.
I’m talking about ‘Tenants pretending to be owners” fraud where someone will rent a property, have fake ID made up in the owner’s name, will most likely have the odd utility bill arriving at the property in the owner’s name. They’ll then instruct an agent at a lowish figure to get buyers salivating and the resulting scramble to buy the property ‘cheap’ will mean a rushed deal and perhaps corners cut on the conveyancing/AML front. The ‘seller’ then scarpers with, often, hundreds of thousands in ill-gotten gains.
There have been one or two well-publicised cases in the last few years, one involving a well-known reporter/author comes to mind. But I remember the first example I heard about was almost 40 years ago so I am somewhat surprised and angry that it’s still happening.
The irony, writing on a mortgage broker’s blog, is that it is most likely to occur on a property where the owner is absent, the property is rented, freehold and debt free.
A part solution exists – The Land Registry has a [not mandatory] email alert on the site so that IF someone makes an enquiry the owner gets a note, but with emails so easy to hack I’d like to see such alerts also communicated via text – SIMs are MUCH more secure – or both. I’d also like to see it as a mandatory requirement for everyone to have such communication options when a property is registered.
If such a solution is part of a revisiting of the buying and selling process, which I know is going on within Gov’t as they try to see whether tech can help, then all well and good.
In the meantime the old adage applies, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.