Sunday, 6 December 2009

Property Fraud on the increase

The Daily Mirror in an article entitled How Mortgage Fraudsters Stole Our Mother's House last week highlighted a recent case where crooks have managed to sell a house from under the noses of the real owners - who warn the same fraud could happen to anyone.

In March 2009 a BBC reporter wrote to Land Registry, claiming to be the owner of an unmortgaged house in London. Using a bogus signature, the reporter asked for the property's correspondence address to be changed to Liverpool. Land Registry wrote to both addresses confirming the change to be made in 21 days. The owner was known not to be resident at the London address and so no objection was raised. Having been successful it would have been left open to commit a fraud.

Although not clear form the Mirror article, critical to many of these scams is the use of stolen identities. According to many conveyancing solicitors specialising in the field, the key context for the problem was the dash into deregulation and e-commerce at the turn of the century.

“There was a view throughout the profession that the abolition of documents of title and reliance upon electronic records would contribute to fraud. And so it has proved,” Samson says. “All this information is open to view through the internet so a fraudster can see exactly who owns a property, assume his or her identity and then sell it.”

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