An alert has been issued by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau's Proactive Intelligence Team highlighted the issue of fraud associated with empty homes where owners have died. Criminal gangs are referring to obituaries and then carrying out careful research to identify homes that they might be able to raise loan finance against. The exact mechanisms are not explained, for obvious reasons.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s (NFIB) Proactive Intelligence Team is warning homeowners about organised criminal groups that target empty properties in the UK to apply for mortgages and loans.
The team have gathered information that shows criminal networks identifying empty properties by using names on the published obituaries and carrying out research on the Land Registry.
Once a suitable property is discovered the criminal group then organise for fake documentation to be produced and register on the electoral role and with utility providers.
The group tirelessly work through the legal hurdles until the funds are released by the organisation, whilst the innocent party has no idea a crime has taken place.
Fraudsters can also take advantage when:
- Owners are absent.
- There are buy to let landlords.
- Owners are living abroad.
- Elderly people don’t live in their properties for reasons such as long term hospital or residential care.
The Alert goes on to provide advice about protecting against property fraud, particularly via use of the Land Registry's property alert service:
How to protect against property fraud
Owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can quickly alert the Land Registry and speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next by calling the Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030. The line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
- Make sure your property is registered with the Land Registry - you will be compensated for financial loss if you do fall victim to fraud.
- Keep your contact information up to date once registered so you can be easily contacted if a complication arises.
- Sign up for Land Registry’s free Property Alert service. If someone tries to take out a mortgage on