The intensification of property fraud and fake ID documents means that conveyancers are much more accountable when it comes to ensuring their clients are who they say they are.
Over the past 18 years, property fraud and bogus ID documentation has estimated to have cost the UK Land Registry in excess of £73 million – averaging a pay out to a victim over £100,000.
Criminals are ever-evolving and will use a number of sophisticated methods to commit property fraud such as obtaining a fake ID like a passport or driving licence; or changing their name by deed poll to the real property owner’s name and obtaining genuine documents or opening bank accounts.
One example of property fraud being committed is a GP being forced to share 50% of his home with the wife of the previous owner after the property was sold without her consent.
Those who are at most risk of being targeted for property fraud are sole and long-established owners (especially of unmortgaged properties); couples who have split up acrimoniously; absent landlords or those who live overseas; people living in a care home or hospital; and deceased property owners, according to The Law Society and HM Land Registry.
Even though conveyancers are very accustomed to obtaining and checking identity documents from their clients, new technological advances has meant that forgeries are becoming a lot more sophisticated and harder to spot.
As the Law Society supports its members and helps them navigate business challenges and the changing legal and regulatory landscape by providing up to date advice and practice notes on various issues – they have provided guidance on property fraud on what to look for and steps to help tackle the issues here.
Other tools that are available to law firms to help with identity checks and protect against criminals are related to training staff members. Continually providing regular training opportunities on how to spot fake documents will only bolster defences.
Furthermore, The document ‘Recognising Fraudulent Identity Documents’ is the Government guidelines when it comes to examining identity documents.
How difficult is property fraud prevention? What procedures should conveyancers follow to avoid instances of property fraud occurring?