Criminal gangs are using empty homes to take out loans and mortgages, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is warning.

Evidence has been unconvered to suggest criminals are choosing empty homes by scouring obituaries and the Land Registry. 

Once an empty property is identified, the scammers organise fake documentation in order to apply for finance linked to the address.

The fraudsters will register on the electoral roll and with utility providers in order to build up the required proof to pass through all the legal hurdles.

This criminal group works until it has met all the criteria needed to get funds released, while the homeowner is none the wiser and left saddled with the debt against the property.

Are you at risk?

The NFIB says the main homeowners at risk include:

  • Owners that are absent from their property
  • Buy-to-let landlords who may have empty properties
  • Owners that are living abroad with an empty property in the UK
  • Elderly people that don’t live in their properties for reasons such as long term hospital or residential care

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How to protect yourself

There are certain things you can do to protect yourself from this sort of devious fraud.

Make sure your property is registered with the Land Registry. Doing this will mean you will be compensated for financial loss if you do fall victim to mortgage fraud.

It’s also important to keep your contact information up to date once registered so you can be easily contacted if something suspicious is spotted.

It’s also a good idea to sign up for Land Registry’s free Property Alert service. If someone tries to take out a mortgage on a home you own you’ll receive an alert.

You can then judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice.

You should also check your credit report regularly as this logs credit searches linked to addresses in your name, so you can spot suspicious loans linked to your home.

Where to get help

If you’re concerned that your home is being used to fraudulently leverage finance call the Land Registry on its Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030.

The line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday and you can talk to specially trained staff who can provide practical guidance about what to do next.