Jun 24
A man talking on the phone while taking notes.

How to avoid scams when you’re buying and selling property

With large amounts of money changing hands, property transactions can be enticing for fraudsters. Falling victim to a scam could mean you miss out on your new home and potentially lose a significant sum. So, being aware of the risks could help you avoid falling prey to a fraudster. 

It’s easy to understand why people fall victim to a scam when they’re carrying out a property transaction. It’s often a stressful experience – in fact, a Zoopla survey found that just 11% of people said buying their home went smoothly, while 62% stated they found moving home more stressful than they expected. 

So, you might not be in the best frame of mind to spot a scam when you’re in the middle of buying or selling a home.

In addition, you may also not be familiar with the process of buying a home or some of the jargon used. Feeling confused might mean you’re more likely to believe a scammer if they approach you claiming to be a professional. 

Here are three types of scams you should be aware of. 

1. Email hacking

There have been reports of scammers hacking emails so they can find out which professionals you are working with during a property transaction. They may then send emails to you impersonating someone you’ve already engaged with, such as a solicitor, to gather personal information or encourage you to transfer money.  

As you’re expecting communication, this type of scam can lull you into a false sense of security. When you receive an email, watch out for:

  • Inconsistent sender email addresses
  • Poor spelling, grammar, or structure
  • The format or tone of the messages changing
  • Using urgent language to encourage you to act.

During a property transaction, you’re likely to transfer money to different professionals, sometimes several times during the process. Double-checking the account details, especially if they’ve changed, could help you avoid a scam. A legitimate business will understand why you’re taking a cautious approach, so don’t be afraid to call them if you’re unsure.

2. Property title fraud

If you’re selling a property, fraudsters may pose as a potential buyer and even make you an offer to commit property title fraud. 

This type of scam involves gathering personal details about you. The fraudster will then use this information to attempt to transfer the ownership of your property. If someone approaches you directly about buying your home or makes an offer without viewing the property, it could be a warning sign.

You can register for HM Land Registry’s property alert service, which would send you an email when certain activity occurs on your monitored properties. It could mean you’re aware much sooner if someone is trying to transfer the ownership of the property, allowing you to take action.  

3. Fake businesses

When you’re buying or selling property, you’re likely to engage the services of several professionals. You might work with a conveyancing solicitor, surveyor, mortgage broker, estate agent, and more. When you’re choosing who to work with, be cautious of fake firms.

A fake business might pretend to offer you services to either gain access to your personal information or encourage you to transfer money.

Be cautious if you’re approached out of the blue, and take some time to carry out due diligence. For instance, does their website look genuine, do they have reviews from previous customers, and can you contact them by phone? 

For solicitors, you can check the Law Society’s database to see if the firm you’ve been talking to is regulated and compare contact details. Similarly, the Financial Conduct Authority’s register contains the details of regulated mortgage brokers. 

Remember, some scammers will use the details of a genuine firm when they approach you. So, using the phone number listed on the register to check the details could be a worthwhile task. Again, a genuine business will understand if you’re worried about scams, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with them. 

Contact us if you need mortgage advice

If you’re buying property and need mortgage advice you can rely on, please contact us. We’ll work with you to understand your circumstances and find a lender that suits your needs. 

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loans secured on it.

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