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Property hijacking scam: stay safe

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Shocking figures from the HM Land Registry and reported by BT News show a growing trend of rogue tenants selling off the properties they rent by committing identity fraud, with the number of property fraud cases it has prevented more than doubling from 20 on property worth £7.2 million in 2013/14, to 50 on property worth £24.9 million in 2016/17.

How it works

Fraudsters will pretend to be a tenant and rent out a property using fake ID documents. Once their tenancy application has been agreed, they will change their name by deed poll to the same as the property owner’s name, which will be stated in their tenancy agreement.

The impostor can then ask an estate agent to put the property up for sale to a cash buyer.

Will I get my property back?

Typically, the owner will eventually get their property back. The would-be buyer, however, stands to lose the most in this type of scam.

Cifas - the fraud prevention service - says the increase in property hijacking scams is believed to be a result of a broader rise in identity theft which accounted for more than half of all fraud in 2016.

Stay safe

People most at risk of property hijacking are those with rented properties, especially if there is no mortgage on them and they are not registered with the Land Registry.

If you’re a homeowner or a landlord with up to 10 properties, sign up to the free alert service offered by HM Land Registry.

Also, regularly check your credit report, as this will alert you to signs of identity theft.