The drama captured viewers’ imagination, unaware that it is based on fact. In 2015, a journalist discovered that a property they owned in London, but did not live in, had been sold without their knowledge.
Although the Land Registry refused to register the sale, by the time the crime was discovered, the buyer had received the keys. The BBC has also highlighted recent cases of similar criminality conducted online.
These fraudsters typically target second homes and investment properties, which are rarely visited by their real owners, selling to cash buyers to avoid mortgage checks.
Consequently, if letting a second property, it is a good idea to use a specialist letting agent, who will not only validate tenants’ details, but conduct regular checks to ensure the property is safe and well maintained.
During the pandemic, online fraud increased. If you have any concerns about your own, or a relative’s property, you can sign up without charge at propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk and receive notifications if there is any unauthorised activity in relation to that property. It’s very easy, taking just a few minutes.
When you purchase a property ensure that you sign up to protect your long term interests.
To prevent these crimes, The Law Society and Land Registry are calling for conveyancers to use more secure means of identifying buyers and sellers. Your solicitor can provide advice should you receive a Land Registry alert on your account.