Financial watchdog is alerting landlords to watch out for property hijacking by fraudsters and crooked mortgage brokers.
The Financial Services Authority has circulated the warning to all small financial advice firms in the UK to pass on to clients.
The FSA is warning that the number cases of mortgage brokers and fraudsters scamming banks and building societies by arranging loans against empty properties they do not own is increasing.
Property hijacking is often perpetrated by third parties introducing mortgage business to advisers from outside their business area.
“These have been attempts by fraudsters to raise mortgages on unencumbered properties which they do not own – property hijacking,” said the FSA.
“This demonstrates the importance of undertaking appropriate due diligence when engaging in new relationships, to ensure that you know who you are dealing with and can identify any trends or anomalies in the business being offered.”
Over the last four years, around 700 alerts about mortgage brokers suspected of fraud have been passed to lenders and detectives.
The FSA has opened 100 enforcement cases, which have resulted in 80 mortgage brokers being banned and fines of over £1 million.
The Land Registry has recently joined the FSA campaign by setting up a free service that alerts landlords and other property owners who live away from their properties if someone tries to obtain finance against the title.
The restriction is designed to prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
The Land registry reckons since September 2009, more than 100 fraudulent applications have been made against properties worth around £47 million.
Malcolm Dawson, Chief Land Registrar said: “We take the issue of fraud very seriously and work closely with other organisations including the Law Society to do all we can to reduce the opportunities for fraud and to identify and take corrective action when it has happened.”