Law firms must not adopt lazy “tick box” approaches to property fraud prevention, Land Registry officials have said.
In a 15-page advice to solicitors, the registry says that some law firms have failed to impose diligent defences against increasingly sophisticated scams around house-buying transactions.
“Practitioners should look at each transaction as a whole,” the advice reads. “It will rarely be the case that one factor alone will betray a fraudulent transaction. In most cases it is a matter of looking at all aspects of the case together and taking an informed view on the likelihood of fraud and the appropriate measures to be deployed to guard against it.”
The guidance, which was published in conjunction with the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, told solicitors that “fraud prevention and detection should not be approached on a tick box basis – although a checklist might be appropriate.
“Fraud methods vary and evolve continually, and practitioners should diligently look out for anything which may be unusual or suspicious which may point to possible title fraud. Appropriate further investigation or queries should be raised in such circumstances.”
Graham Farrant, the Land Registry’s chief executive and chief land registrar, said that his organisation needed “to work closely with conveyancing solicitors to ensure the necessary checks and safeguards are in place to beat the fraudsters”.