Property hijacking: steps to prevent property fraud
Property hijacking refers to the crime of selling any property without the owner’s knowledge. Recent cases of property fraud involved individuals changing their legal name to match the name of the homeowner and getting hold of a fake passport. In certain circumstances, the fraudster does not sell the property but instead deceives buyers into paying for the property before it is even sold. Property hijacking can leave both buyers and owners of the property under a financial burden. This blog will discuss who is at risk of property fraud and the steps to prevent this type of fraud.
Who is at risk of property fraud?
Property fraudsters usually target properties when the homeowner is on holiday, or when the property is empty since the owner lives overseas. Others who are also at risk of property fraud include homeowners who choose to rent out their property, who do not have a mortgage and homeowners who have not registered their property with the Land Registry.
Steps to prevent property fraud:
One step which can be used to reduce the risk of property fraud is to ensure that the property is registered with the Land Registry. The Land Registry would be responsible for alerting the homeowners if anyone decides to change the ownership of their property or if someone decides to sell it. This process, however, may not completely prevent the fraudster from selling the house but it is an effective method for bringing attention to it at an earlier stage. Property owners should also ensure that their contact address is up to date with the Land Registry.
Other ways property owners can protect themselves from being a victim of property fraud include keeping identity documents secure. Additionally, homeowners should ask neighbours to support them in protecting their property, particularly if they know that their property will be empty. Neighbours can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and contact them immediately to help reduce the risk of property fraud.
Another effective way to prevent property fraud is to get support from an experienced, professional solicitor who can conduct the conveyancing process.
Property hijacking is an issue that has been rising in recent years and affects both buyers and homeowners. Solicitors can play an active role in preventing property fraud through verifying documents and true ownership of a particular property. Property owners can minimise the risk of property fraud through registering with the Land Registry, getting support from family members or neighbours if they know that their property will be empty as well as seeking for professional legal advice. Taking these steps to prevent property fraud are essential as it can save property owners and buyers from a potentially serious financial burden.
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