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Max Hastings and his wife, victims of property fraud.

£1.3m Identity fraud in West London

Cases

April 12, 2024

The Intricacies of Identity Impersonation

In the world of journalistic intrigue, there are tales that defy even the most seasoned reporters' expectations.

The story that unfolded before Max Hastings and his wife Penny was one such jaw-dropping narrative that boggles the mind.

The plot, thickened by the audacity of the criminals involved, centred around the supposed sale of Penny Hastings' cherished West London property for a staggering £1.3 million.

 

 

Max and Penny Hastings, pictured, were stunned when they were told her property in Fulham had been sold.

 

 

The Shocking Revelation

Max Hastings'introduction to this perplexing story began with an email from an unfamiliar Mayfair solicitor. The questions posed were deceptively simple:

 

·      Did his wife, Penny Hastings, own a house in West London?

·      was she aware that it had been sold?

 

The responses were unequivocal - a resounding “yes” to the former, and an emphatic

“Absolutely not” to the latter.

 

The Elaborate Trick that Unfolded

Penny's Fulham property was cherished as a future legacy for her children. However, the solicitor's shocking assertion painted a different picture.

According to him, a distressed young woman had purchased the house, producing a seven-figure cheque, obtaining keys, securing planning permissions, and even initiating utility accounts in her name.

The revelation shook the Hastings family, prompting a swift investigation.

To the great relief of the couple, the Land Registry, which is responsible for holding records of property or land, rejected the transaction, labelling it as suspicious.

 

“We were appalled. What,in heaven’s name, was going on? Once we stopped having fits, well earnt the good news. Penny still owned the property”

 

However, the fraud was all but halted, as the supposed buyer became the victim ensnared in a vicious identity fraud scheme, masterfully duped by a fake vendor.

 

The Real Culprit Behind Identity Fraud

As the investigation progressed, it became clear that the young woman, who paid a substantial amount without a mortgage, had fallen victim to a significant identity impersonation scam.

a picture of the house in Fulham

 

Quite shockingly, the real identity of Mr Hafter, the bogus tenant who managed to first rent and then “sell” the house, remained a troubling puzzle.

Despite his vanishing act post-scam, with all the money from the fake sale already on its way to a bank account in Dubai, law enforcement remained determined to track him down.

 

Breaching Identities with Ease

You might be wondering how fraudsters managed to arrange such a profitable scam.

One of the most unsettling aspects was how effortlessly the criminals had posed as Penny Hastings to sell her house.

Armed with a fabricated identity gained through a name change and a forged passport, the impersonator managed to orchestrate the sale using a mere photocopy.

 

“The detective investigating said that in the past few months the Metropolitan Police has handled many similar cases, including four in which criminals successfully collected the cash for sales.

 

He said fraudsters look for unmortgaged properties — so no bank or building society has an interest —and select houses whose owners do not live locally”

 

Estate Agents and Lawyers Under Scrutiny

Of course, such a blatant real estate fraud would not have been possible had the proper safeguards and monitoring measures (as those provided by Title Guardian) been put in place.

 

Yet, the role of professionals in this scheme raised eyebrows.

Estate agents are sometimes criticised for their dodgy practices, but this time they played a ridiculously significant part through sheer negligence.

 

“One aspect of the deal that would have rung alarm bells — if we had known of it — is that ‘Mr Hafter’ made all payments in cash”

 

The agency responsible for Penny's property had come under fire, prompting legal action. This incident highlighted a broader issue – a lack of oversight and diligence in property transactions.

 

The Evolution of Property fraud

The Hastings family's property saga was a prime example of the worrying evolution of identity impersonation and property fraud schemes.

The fake sale was just a piece of a larger puzzle, with the Metropolitan Police's cybercrime unit digging into a series of high-value home frauds that had caught their attention.

 

Modern transactions had moved online, allowing for electronic transfers of ownership without the need for physical documents.

This transformation,while convenient, also created openings exploited by fraudsters.

 

Conclusion

This experience had made the Hastings family more cautious, aware that trust is a rare commodity in the digital age.

Their story echoed the worries of countless individuals engaged in online transactions.

 

Relying on specialists can empower you to protect your property and secure your peace of mind by preventing any attempts at title fraud.

In this case, Title Guardian would have stopped the fraud right away.

As soon as the fraudster had listed the property for sale, our monitoring platform would have alerted the Hastings to the activity, successfully preventing the devious scheme to proceed any further.

 

Empower yourself against the threats of title fraud and identity impersonation.

Act now to safeguard your property with the assistance of Title Guardian.

 

Protect your property now