Estate agents are being urged to do their bit to battle property fraud and remind clients moving into homes to sign up to the government’s free HM Land Registry title alert scheme.
The call has come from property and legal fintech platform Thirdfort, which has discovered that less than 1% of UK homeowners have signed up the service. It alerts them if or when anyone applies to HM Land Registry to change their property’s register or order official searches.
It also follows the recent high-profile case of a clergyman who discovered his Luton house had been bought from under his nose via title fraud.
“By educating their clients on this simple step, agents can play a key role in helping to further reduce the risk of title fraud”,” says co-founder and MD of Thirdfort Olly Thornton-Berry (pictured, below)
The service enables property owners to judge whether any activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice.
Thirdforts’ Freedom of Information request to HM Land Registry has revealed that the total number of sign-ups to its Property Alert Service since 2014 is just 275,537.
There are approximately 29 million homes in the UK, so fewer than 1% of property owners have signed up to receive alerts on their property, despite the significant risks of title fraud.
Thornton-Berry says: “As gatekeepers to the property market, estate agents and conveyancers have a key role to play in spotting fraudulent attempts to buy property.
“That’s why we’re working with more than 550 law firms and property businesses to enhance ID checks using AI, passport chip reading, facial recognition and Open Banking technology.
“Yet, there are also some simple steps that homeowners can take to minimise the risk of such fraud.
“So, it’s worrying that so few have taken this opportunity, particularly as fraudsters become increasingly sophisticated. We would urge homeowners to take advantage of HM Land Registry’s free and easy-to-use service.”