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The image of the Angela's house, victim of property fraud in UK.

Woman fights back against title fraud in £850,000 home theft


April 16, 2024

Angela Ellis-Jones returned from her trip to Wales to an alarming sight—her home in Sutton, Surrey, under the threat of being claimed by strangers in a complex fraud scheme.


While Angela was away to visit her mother for 3 weeks, a woman using the name Catherine Agnes Walder nearly succeeded in stealing her house, worth around £850,000 at the time.


The whole process was relatively swift and simple: upon contacting the Land Registry impersonating the rightful owner of the house – that is, Angela – the impersonator managed to transfer ownership of the property to her name, with the help of a complicit solicitor.



The Shocking Revelation


The attempt to snatch her property began with the placement of an unfamiliar "ugly metal post-box" on Angela’s front door, suggesting foul play going on in her absence. This subtle hint of intrusion was just the beginning of a meticulously planned identity theft that aimed to strip her of her rightful ownership.


Yet, it wasn't until she received a letter from the Land Registry two months later, just titled ‘Completion of Registration’, that Angela begun to uncover the harsh reality—her cherished home had been unlawfully transferred to an unknown third party. The shock and fear she experienced upon this revelation were profoundly upsetting.



"Someone had stolen my home! After the reality sank in, I felt frightened and feared for my safety. With a house worth this much, what lengths would they go to get me out of the way?"



Luckily, Angela was able to notice the scheme at the very last minute, thus commencing the long struggle to defend her property all on her own.

Upon contacting the Land Registry, Angela discovered that a solicitor in Tooting, London, had verified the identity of an imposter seeking to transfer ownership of the property. Unfortunately, due to her prolonged absence and the manipulation of her letterbox, she missed crucial correspondence, ultimately leading to the property's transfer to an unknown party on November 2.


Blindsided by the completion notice arriving late in November, once again not sent by tracked post, she soon noticed that the fraudster's clever tactics extended to paying the transfer fee anonymously, using a postal order, with the purpose of further cloaking their identity.



Fighting Title Fraud


The battle to reclaim her home commenced—a gruelling process feeling like an uphill struggle. One of the obstacles Angela did not expect to face is the position of the justice system, which regarded the fraud merely as a 'civil matter,' without acknowledging its severity.



“What followed was a battle to get my home back, and at times it felt like the law was on the criminal’s side.”



Quite ironically, due to the technical transfer of ownership, the Land Registry had to locate the new owner and ascertain if they objected to Angela's reinstatement as the rightful proprietor.


This added another three weeks of uncertainty and anxiety to her ordeal.


Despite the risk of engaging in prolonged negotiations or facing the Lands Tribunal loomed large in case the fraudster contested the claim, the criminals eventually relented, allowing Angela to reclaim the property by the end of November.


Nonetheless, although she regained ownership, the distress and potential loss she faced were enormous. Angela expressed her disappointment at the lack of acknowledgment or apology from the Land Registry for the major oversight that let the fraud occur.


Responding to queries, a representative from the Land Registry assured their commitment to minimising property fraud risks and upholding the Land Register's integrity, even though criminals now seem to be increasingly capable of avoiding traditional control systems with ease.


Despite returning to her home, Angela thought long and hard about the near miss: If she had prolonged her stay with her mother just a little more, the house could have been lost for good.


Seeking closure, she remained resolute in her pursuit of acknowledgment and compensation, hoping her ordeal could serve as a lesson to prevent such a blatant fraud in the future.



Title Guardian: Shielding your Property


Stories like that of Angela are certainly tragic and, unfortunately, in the last few years they tend to happen much more often than expected.


Indeed, the major risk is to underestimate these occurrences as rare events that would never happen to ourselves. Going a step further, one could say that this ‘optimistic’ attitude is exactly what fraudsters thrive on.


Leveraging the boundless potential offered by the internet, criminals engaging in title fraud and identity impersonation represent a constant threat to landlords and homeowners alike: as of today, the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to focus on prevention.


This is why core mission of Title Guardian is to give property owners the power to monitor 24/7 their properties, without having to lose time in lengthy review processes. Thanks to our digital monitoring systems, our app can inform you of all potentially fraudulent actions related to one or more properties, sending timely alerts before any real damage can be done.


If you want to know more on how Title Guardian can become your ultimate shield against title frauds, take a look at our offer.