ITV drama highlights property scam: A closer look at conveyancing fraud
This month, millions of viewers have been gripped by ITV drama Our House, based on a 2019 novel with the same name. The four-part thriller saw criminals steal a home and secretly sell it. In one episode, a mum of two comes home to discover that her property has mysteriously changed hands without her knowledge. Whilst the plot may seem far-fetched, for some people the scam is all too familiar.
In eerily similar circumstances, in November, the BBC reported that a man’s house was sold without his knowledge after criminals intercepted the property owners post and committed identity fraud. Reverend Mike Hall drove to his home in Luton to discover building work under way and a new owner who said he’d bought the home. In this case, the man’s driving license was stolen, and a fraudulent bank account set up in the victim’s name. Having done this, the criminal went on to sell the house and the funds were released into the fraudulent account.
Unfortunately, this is not the first-time opportunistic criminals have spotted a chance to steal in this way. Due to the high value of the money involved in property transactions, the sector can be a prime target for fraudsters. Such an event is more likely to occur when a property is empty and without a mortgage. It can be relatively straightforward for post to be intercepted via a postal redirect request for example. Criminals are then able to obtain access to personal documents such as bank statements and payslips.
Under such circumstances, if appropriate due diligence is not carried out by a conveyancer on their client, funds can be sent to the wrong place with devastating effects.
At SAS Daniels, our team of conveyancing experts have systems and processes in place to protect your money in compliance with Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rules. We have policies in place to avoid property and mortgage fraud and systems to validate where funds are being sent. Our team also undertakes regular training to ensure we are always alert to the warning signs when it comes to property fraud and are aware of the increasingly sophisticated measures taken by cyber criminals. As the ITV drama highlighted, it is vital that due diligence is carried out to make sure that fiction does not become a reality.