This is a rare recording: it’s the voice of a man who has stolen another man’s identity and is in the process of selling his home. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0010nt4
You may have read the story in the press. (https://metro.co.uk/2021/11/06/man-arrested-after-vicar-comes-home-to-find-house-had-been-sold-15554413/)
The Revd Michael Hall was away from his house in Luton, working in North Wales, when neighbours contacted him to say something was wrong. There were people working in his house.
Revd Hall came back quickly to find his house was no longer his ‘home’. The locks had been changed, his furniture and belongings gone, and builders were at work inside. When he pushed his way into the house one of the builders contacted the new owner’s father who said he had bought the terraced house in July, and that he was trespassing and should ‘get out.’
The new owner’s name was recorded on the Land Registry deeds, making him the legal owner, but an investigation found that fraudsters had stolen Rev Hall’s identity and pocketed £131,000 from the sale of his home in July.
Police were called but told him there was nothing they could do because of the Land Registry information, telling him it was a ‘civil matter’ and he would have to hire solicitors to resolve it. A criminal investigation was eventually launched after Bedfordshire Police’s fraud squad were alerted. The suspect was arrested later at his home in Bedford, the force said.
The voice recording may be rare but stealing houses by stealing the person’s identity is a growing crime. Since 2009, HM Land Registry says it has prevented hundreds of fraudulent applications being registered by fraudsters. Attempts to “steal” property include selling or mortgaging your property without your knowledge. ‘We work with professional conveyancers, such as solicitors, and rely on them and the checks that they make to spot fraudulent attempts to impersonate property owners.’
Last year the Land Registry paid out a total of £3.5m in compensation for fraud.
The properties criminals target are those without mortgages, and where the owner is known to spend days away. In Revd Hall’s case the criminal had applied to DMV for a copy of his driving licence, and had changed the picture on it to his own. DMV checked with Revd Hall if he had applied for a copy, and he said that he hadn’t. At that point DMV should have withdrawn the copy it had issued and taken further action but didn’t, for reasons not clear.
Once Revd Hall’s house was sold to the new owner for £131,000 by the person impersonating Mr Hall, they legally owned it. The solicitors involved in the property transaction said there was an ongoing police investigation and that it was inappropriate to comment further, adding, ‘”We will continue to co-operate with the police, and comply with our professional obligations,’ said the firm, which the BBC has chosen not to name in its report.
It’s mostly older people who own houses with no mortgage. Losing their home in this way is the stuff nightmares are made of – it doesn’t bear thinking about. If you have older people who own their house and have no mortgage, you can help reduce their risk of being scammed by setting up an alert service with the Land Registry. If any kind of enquiry is made on their property the Land Registry will send them an email alert. To set one up go to https://www.thp.co.uk/land-registry-property-alert-service/.