The reported value of rental frauds in 2016 matched a total amount of nearly £2.5 million and this trend is growing. But what should set the alarm ringing? Arthur takes a look at some of the most common property frauds and tips to safeguard your business.
Some people are more vulnerable to property fraud than others. Consider yourself at risk if your property is:
- Rented out
- Empty (perhaps the owner may be living abroad or in a care home)
- Mortgage free
- Not registered with the Land Registry
According to experts at the Land Registry, buy-to-let landlords, owners of mortgage free properties and those living abroad are particularly at risk of a scam involving fraudsters stealing their identity in order to sell or mortgage the property without them knowing. They then disappear, frequently changing their names leaving the true homeowner to deal with the consequences. To tackle this problem, the Government’s Land Registry department set up a Property Alert scheme to prevent such frauds.
In one scam someone posing as a tenant will answer an ad for an online property and ask to pay by Western Union or a similar service. They then “accidentally” pay too much, apologise and ask for the money to be returned. The original payment will bounce and the fake tenant will receive the “repayment”.
Fake payment invoice
In recent months the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received a high number of reports about emails containing a piece of malware and either claiming to be an invoice or containing details of transactions.The payment method is described as a credit card payment, with details of a fake transaction number. The email will then state that the recipient can find more information on the purchase in the attached file, however opening the attachment will infect your computer with malware. The telephone numbers provided at the bottom of the email are not genuine and are often connected to people that are unaware that their email is being used.
Are you prepared to take action if you think you are at risk of property fraud? We have a few tips to get you covered:
Sign up to the Land Registry Alert service
If you think you might be at risk of property fraud, the first thing you should do is sign up to the Land Registry Property Alert service. Alerts are sent to you via email when official searches and applications are received against the property you want monitored
Put a restriction on your title
You can safeguard your property further by applying to put a restriction against the title that no sale or remortgage of the property is to be registered without a certificate signed by a solicitor.
Be wary of fake emails
Do not click on any attachments or links within an email unless you are sure that you know who has sent them. Always check the legitimacy of the email with the company that has supposedly sent it.
Know your tenant:
The best advice we can give to landlords and letting agents to avoid becoming victims of property fraud is to know their tenants. Always attend viewings with clients, never release keys (particularly regarding void properties) and never allow anyone to stay after you leave. Fraudsters might take an imprint of the key and get it cloned later. Make sure you are there and you can verify the details of the people moving into your property, don’t just rely on the letting agent!