Land Registry targets solicitors and conveyancers with ‘property fraud’ warnings

18 July, 2017

HM Land Registry has been issuing important email reminders to solicitors and conveyancers stressing the importance of being on the lookout for so-called ‘property fraud’ – which can result in significant financial losses.

The email reminders follow a series of leaflets recently issued to law and conveyancing firms in a bid to raise awareness of the issue – which appears to be growing increasingly common.

A leaflet recently sent out to such firms with instructions to distribute to property clients, reads: “Fraudsters can and do target properties for fraud. By pretending to be you they can try to sell or mortgage your property, leaving you to deal with the consequences. Fraud of all kinds is on the increase, so it’s important you do what you can to protect yourself.”

It warns that homeowners are likely to be more at risk if their property is rented out, empty, mortgage-free or not registered with HM Land Registry.

Homeowners are subsequently advised to sign up to the Land Registry’s free Property Alert service – which will notify them of any applications put forward or issues raised concerning their property, including applications for new mortgages or changes of ownership.

It adds that if properties are targeted by fraud and encounter subsequent financial loss, owners can only be compensated if the property is correctly registered with HM Land Registry.

Meanwhile, solicitors and conveyancers are warned to report any ‘suspicious’ property transactions they are asked to carry out as soon as possible by contacting HM Land Registry’s property fraud line on 0300 006 7030.

So far, the Land Registry claims that it has been successful in preventing hundreds of fraudulent applications from being registered, representing properties valued in excess of £117m.

The warnings, which are being issued as part of Scams Awareness Month this July, come shortly after separate research revealed a rise in so-called ‘conveyancing fraud’.

This kind of fraud typically sees cyber-criminals commandeer communications between conveyancers, homebuyers and estate agents by hacking into email exchanges and posing as solicitors.

In these instances, police crime watchdog Action Fraud reports that hackers are attempting to re-direct conveyancing fees and deposit funds into their own bank accounts, by informing homebuyers of a bogus ‘last minute change’ to the conveyancer’s bank account details.

For more information about the tax and financial services Watson Buckle can provide to clients in the legal sector, including conveyancers, please contact us.