Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the process of investing in property is a legally demanding one and one that is heavily regulated.
That said, there are those who use property investment as the perfect ground by which to prey on unsuspecting investors and homeowners. Property scams can do more than victimise you. They can get you in legal trouble if you fail to do the necessary due diligence. So, here are some common property scams you must absolutely be aware of.
Sometimes, scammers will attempt to steal your property from right under your nose. They will often do this on property that is listed for sale since more information might be publicly available on this, especially those that have no mortgage on them.
They can do this by claiming to the Land Registry that records are incorrect and will attempt to have records change to reflect that they, the scammers, own the property. You would normally get mail to confirm whether or not this is true, but they may try to intercept that mail, too.
Signing up to the Land Registry Property Alert Service is always a smart move if you’re renting out a home or not living in an investment property.
If you’re looking for a new investment property, you should be aware that if any deal looks too good to be true, it likely is.
However, some scammers have clever ways of sneaking in fake property opportunities. For instance, a common tactic is to hold a seminar or course on property investment, only to end it by offering attendants the chance to invest in off-plan property that has yet to be built.
There are legitimate off-plan property deals out there, but you should always take such offers with a grain of salt. It’s not unheard of for “property developers” to disappear after receiving the first payments on a payment plan.
Beware the money launderers
Property is a market in which large amounts of money can be shifted in a single purchase. For that reason, it’s a highly popular method of money laundering. Money laundering is when those in illegal trades use legitimate purchases and businesses to “clean” dirty money, and flipping houses is one way that criminals will do it.
Make sure you talk to your agent about anti-money laundering checks for estate agents. Failing to do the proper due diligence regarding these particular property scams can result in you getting in trouble, not just the money launderers.
Phishing is far from a property-exclusive danger, but it is one that’s common in the property world. If you have publicly stated that you are interested in buying or selling a house, you should be careful of revealing too much information to anyone online.
From buyers and sellers to estate agents and fake solicitors, phishers will imitate anyone. They may start asking questions to get all kinds of personal data, including your name, address, date of birth and the like. This will most often happen through email. If someone expresses an interest, ensure they go through your estate agent and not you directly.
When dealing in property, make sure you’re aware of the property scams out there. Any solicitors and other estate agents involved in the sale should be kept aware and updated on any changes. If something looks suspicious to you, don’t be afraid to put on the breaks until it’s cleared up.