North Yorkshire Police have released a warning after an increase in fraudsters using obituaries to identify recently-empty properties whose owners have died.
They use the information to apply for loans using fake documents to dupe mortgage providers. The scammers use Land Registry data to collect further details about the property, before registering on the electoral roll and with utility companies, working through the legal steps until finances are released to them.
Often, the rights and deeds to the property belong to an innocent person who has no idea that the crime has taken place.
Police say that there is an increased risk of the fraud if the home is empty or has been bought to let, the owner is spending time abroad or is living in a nursing home, a relationship between the owners and the occupants has broken down, or if the property does not have a mortgage.
To protect yourself against the scam, official advice is to:
- Be very wary of mail solicitations claiming great returns, no matter how good they look. Check out the company first. For example, does it have a legitimate street address and landline number?
- If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is
- 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.