Homeowners are being urged to protect their property and not be taken in by online scammers using increasingly sophisticated methods to extract information.
Action Fraud (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/) says organised criminal groups are targeting empty properties in the UK to apply for mortgages and loans.
They often identify empty properties by using names on published obituaries and carrying out research on the Land Registry.
Once a suitable property is discovered, they arrange for fake documentation to be produced and register on the electoral roll and with utility providers.
They work through the legal hurdles until the funds are released by the organisation, while the innocent party has no idea a crime has taken place.
Fraudsters can also take advantage when:
- Owners are absent
- There are buy to let landlords
- Owners are living abroad
- Elderly people don’t live in their properties for reasons such as long-term hospital or residential care.
Owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can quickly alert the Land Registry and speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next by calling the Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030.
Owners should also:
- Make sure your property is registered with the Land Registry – you will be compensated for financial loss if you do fall victim to fraud.
- Keep your contact information up to date once registered so you can be easily contacted if a complication arises.
- Sign up for Land Registry’s free Property Alert service. If someone tries to take out a mortgage on a home you own you’ll receive an alert. You can then judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice.
Sign up for free to Action Fraud Alert to receive direct, verified, accurate information about scams and fraud in your area by email, recorded voice and text message.
The Land Registry has also issued advice about identifying and reporting phishing emails. In a statement it says: “If you are unsure whether an email you have received is genuine, look at the sender address domain in the email’s “From” field.
“Genuine HM Land Registry emails have a sender domain ending in .gov.uk, for example Telford.OfficeMail [Telford.Office@landregistry.gov.uk]
“Phishing emails may use our office names, but are being sent from other email domains, for example Telford.OfficeMail [firstname.lastname@example.org].
“If you are unsure about an email claiming to be from HM Land Registry, follow these steps:
- Do not open the attachment or follow any links, as this may infect your computer with a virus. Computer viruses can help criminals to steal data from your computer.
- Do not reply to the email.
- Forward the email, along with any attachments, to email@example.com. Where possible, use the ‘Forward as attachment’ option on your email software. Netcraft will take action to remove any offending material or sites from the internet.
- If you have lost money or information, or your computer has been taken over by a phishing or malware attack, report it to Action Fraud.
- Delete the email.
For more information about phishing emails, read Action Fraud’s advice.