Property fraud has long been a concern for solicitors, their clients and the whole industry.
It is important when accepting a retainer from you as our client that we verify your identity. All appropriate due diligence must be conducted to ensure that the seller of a property is the rightful owner and we appreciate your consideration and understanding of the need for your solicitor to verify the identity of all clients.
Residential property is the target of fraudsters looking to exploit property owners. Fraudsters tend to sell or re-mortgage property that doesn’t belong to them in order to obtain the cash from the proceeds of sale of the property or the mortgage advance.
Properties that are more at risk include the following:-
- Unoccupied properties.
- By-to-Let/rented properties.
- Properties left empty for extended periods.
- Property owned by elderly occupants.
- Property that is left empty following the death of the owner.
- Properties with no mortgage.
- Unregistered land (land not registered with Land Registry).
- Owners of property where their identity has been stolen.
- Owners who live overseas.
This type of fraud normally starts with the fraudster stealing the owner’s identity, and then selling or mortgaging the property by pretending to be you/the owner. Thankfully this type of property fraud is rare, but can have a devastating effect for the victims of this type of fraud.
Land Registry do have a dedicated Property Fraud page on their website where you will find further information on ways in which to protect your property from this type of fraud. The Land Registry also offer an alert service to enable you to be made aware of any applications or searches being made against your own property. If you require further information please contact the Land Registry through their website or contact us directly for further information.
Remember, it is important to ensure that your contact details with the Land Registry are up to date, particularly where you own property in which you do not reside. If your details are not up to date then you may not receive notice of any application relating to your property, for example if a fraudster attempts to sell your property, unless Land Registry have up to date addresses for service you are unlikely to be notified of any applications relating to your property.
Cybercrime is also a major and prevalent concern in the industry today. Criminal fraudsters have become wise to the fact that considerable sums of money pass between their clients, their lenders and their solicitors on a daily basis.
The rapid rise in correspondence by email has given a rise to criminals finding methods through computer programming and hacking to identify data containing bank details and email accounts of clients.
In some cases criminal fraudsters have intercepted emails between the solicitor and client where instructions are given or sought regarding the destination of funds for the proceeds of sale of a property, and in others hackers are able to manipulate some emails in transmit and substitute bank details provided with their own fraudulent account details.
This does result in money being redirected to criminals and has in the past led to losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
At Minahan Hirst & Co we obtain from you a written mandate at the start of any transaction which must be signed by you confirming your nominated bank account details. Throughout the transaction we will not then agree to send funds to any other alternative bank account without you first completing, signing and returning another written mandate to us.
Minahan Hirst & Co has banked with Nat West Bank in excess of 20 years and we have no plans to change our banking details at this stage. To help prevent against property fraud and cybercrime please note the following:-
- Make sure that your security software on your devices is up to date
- You will never receive bank details from us in an open email
- Do not disclose this firms bank details to any third party
- We will never ask you to provide your bank details in an open email to us, if you are ever asked for such information then please report this to us immediately
- Never send your bank details to us in an open email
- Do not discuss your transaction on any social media platform. No matter how innocent your posting may be there are always criminals out there looking for information relating to property transactions
- If you wish to confirm our bank details then please speak to your solicitor in person and they will be happy to confirm the details and provide reassurance
- Our cyber security measures, mortgage fraud protection measures and identity verification measures are constantly under review for the mutual protection of both you as our clients and this firm.