What is property fraud?
Property fraud has developed in recent years as a way for criminals to get access to cash through property. This type of criminal activity can take many forms but usually involves a fraudulent investment scheme into property, or identity theft of a property owner.
Property Investment Fraud
We are seeing increasing instances of people being lured into investing their money in property with the promise of huge returns on their investment which never materialise. A typical example is a scheme to invest in the development of a property, which is not ever built. The investor is left with nothing to show for their money. Fraudsters often use an agent who will charge a fee to get the investor on board and the fraudster will often hide behind this agent company.
Anthony Gold has successfully unravelled some of these schemes and recovered money for investors when the fraudsters disappear and the companies dissolve.
Clifford Tibber, a partner in our dispute resolution team, notably acted for over 100 invest had lost their money in such a scam. By bringing the victims together the legal costs were shared and the recovery of the lost money was maximised. Anthony Gold sued the solicitor who acted for both the investors and the agent. He was able to reach a settlement with the solicitor’s insurers without ever having to issue proceeding.
Fraudulent Property Transactions – Identity Fraud
This is where a fraudster poses as the property owner and sells it without the owner’s knowledge. The purchaser loses their money when the Land Registry stops the transfer. Alternatively, the owner can face losing their property if the Land Registry does not detect the fraud.
Beth Holden, a partner in our dispute resolution team, acted for the purchaser victim in the case Purrunsing v A’Court (a firm) and another  EWHC 789 (Ch), which has been widely publicised. The purchaser recovered his lost money from the legal professionals involved in the transaction, as the fraudster had absconded abroad. Beth has experience in successfully dealing with other instances of property fraud, including taking on a bank to discharge a mortgage when the purchaser became victim of an identity theft scam and lost the property which the mortgage was for.
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