While cybercrime and cybersecurity may take up the news headlines, and it’s certainly important to be vigilant when using the internet, it’s also important to be vigilant in the real world.
Quite bluntly, wherever and whenever there is money to be made, there will be criminals looking to part honest people from it.
There is an awful lot of money involved in property, hence it is hugely attractive to fraudsters and first-time buyers are at particular risk from it since, by definition, they are not familiar with the process of buying property.
The good news is that there are some easy steps you can take which will significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of it.
Secure your mail
At the present time, buying and selling property is still very much an analogue process, or, to put it another way, in the case of property, paperwork really does mean paperwork. This may well change over the course of time, but right now the property-buying process generally entails getting important documents sent to your home and having to return them by post.
It is therefore absolutely vital to ensure that your post box is completely tamper-proof and if you can’t manage this, then you may want to think about putting on a mail redirect so that your letters are held at your local post office until you go to collect them.
This may sound like a really cumbersome process and frankly it could be just that if your local post office is not that local and/or is always busy, but it’s a whole lot less cumbersome than having to deal with the possible consequences of property fraud (and can also be massively cheaper).
Secure your digital communications
Having just said all of that, this is still the 21st century and most of the communication between buyers and other people involved in the property-buying process will probably take place using digital channels, especially by phone, usually mobile phone, and email.
There are three key steps to keeping these communications safe.
First of all, secure your computer(s) and mobile device(s) with proper security software, do not rely on the default security software which comes with the main operating systems.
Secondly, establish the key details of the key people early on the proceedings by secure means (e.g. get your solicitor to give your their bank details in their office or by post and never use anything else unless you get the change confirmed by them in the same manner).
Thirdly never let yourself be rushed into doing anything, especially not handing over payment and/or other private details.
Watch for holiday homes being advertised as permanent residences
If you’re buying in an area which is popular with tourists, make sure you check that any property you intend to buy can legally be lived in all year round.
Put a restriction on the title deeds of your property
Once you actually own your property, you can have a restriction put on the title so that your home can only be mortgaged or sold if a solicitor confirms that the application has actually been made by you.