I can't pretend I'm a regular Radio 4 listener, but a little while ago, I did happen to catch a discussion on the 'You and Yours' programme about the issue of property fraud, and specifically, bogus solicitor scams.
They focused on a case where a home buyer had lost £100,000 after being defrauded by criminals pretending to be from a branch of a genuine law firm. Sadly, this is by no means an isolated incident. There have been a fair few occurrences of property fraud over the last few years, and almost without fail, the outcomes have been dire for those that have found themselves tangled up in such cases.
In the course of a transaction, solicitors carry out their usual title investigations, including a number of thorough checks to uncover potential fraud. But as fraudsters' techniques become more and more sophisticated, the signs are likely to be harder to spot. And in some instances, such as the RA Legal case, there was nothing that could be done to prevent the fraud occurring.
It's when these stories reveal the financial hardships endured by the victims that I question why, when insurance protection is available, it isn't more widely taken up. We have a title insurance policy of our own (SCIP) which provides cover against the consequences of fraud. It's inexpensive, simple to arrange, and is designed for the UK market, working in tandem with solicitors' existing conveyancing practices. Our policy has already shown its practical value, reimbursing some of our customers for losses totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds when they became victims of fraudsters.
Don't get me wrong, the industry is hardly overrun with fraud, but with the property market making a recovery and the number of transactions on the rise, the chances are we will see an increase in fraud too. So if the protection is there, and available for minimal cost, no matter how remote the possibility of falling victim to fraudsters may seem, why take the risk?