Expats with property in the UK can sign up for a free government service that gives an early warning of fraudsters staking a claim to the home.
The scam alert run by the Land Registry has flagged thousands of warnings and stopped frauds worth around £70 million since 2009.
The service sends an email notifying property owners someone is trying to change the title on their home.
In one case, an expat signed up for the service and received a warning email within 24 hours.
The unnamed woman was notified someone had made an application to transfer the title to her home in the UK.
She contacted the Land Registry, who launched an investigation that revealed her father had been to a lawyer with a woman posing as the homeowner to sign over her home to him.
Later, the father was found to be intercepting the expat’s mail and stole ID documents which he used to help the imposter impersonate his daughter.
Tracey Salvin, property alert service manager at the Land Registry said: “The service is to stop fraudsters taking out finance or hijacking the title to people’s homes.
“Many people do not realise that fraudsters are trying almost every day to steal someone’s home from out under them. We often come across scammers with forged or stolen documents hoping to take out a mortgage or sell someone’s property.”
Property alert works like this:
- Expats need a free online account with Land Registry.
- Each account can monitor up to 10 homes in England and Wales.
- Email alerts are dispatched triggered by inquiries to the Land Registry.
- Home owners can link into the service by phone on 0300 006 0478.
Homes at risk
Salvin explained certain types of home face a higher risk of fraud than others –
- Buy to lets or houses in multiple occupation – where a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the home without the landlord’s knowledge
- Empty homes – where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
- Ownership disputes – such as deaths and divorce when one party tries to mortgage a home without the other partner knowing
- Homes without a mortgage
Despite the Land Registry holding the details of millions of homes in England and Wales, only 19,000 people have signed up for the service.
“This is a free and important service for expats who are at risk of fraud because they live overseas and have empty or tenanted homes,” said Salvin.