The Land Registry has thrown more light on the case in which veteran war reporter Max Hastings was the subject of a fraud scam and was ‘sold’ for £1.3m.
Shortly before Christmas Hastings wrote a piece in the Daily Mail, claiming that the west London property owned by himself and his wife Penny had been ‘sold’ by a fake vendor; an unwitting ‘buyer’ paid £1.3m for the house.
Hastings’ report - which you can see here - revealed this as just the latest in a series of similar incidents.
Now the Land Registry, which operates a property fraud reporting service that has received almost 3,000 calls and emails in the past three years, has released more details.
It says that Penny Hastings called its ‘property fraud line’ after becoming suspicious that someone had fraudulently sold a property which she owned and let out.
The Registry says: “It turned out the tenant was part of a fraud ring – once he’d rented Penny’s house using a false identity, he and an accomplice put the house on the market. The accomplice was a lady who had changed her name to Penelope Hastings by deed poll and then secured a passport in that name.”
However, the Land Registry did not register the sale as it suspected a fraud. “This meant that Penny Hastings still maintains the legal ownership of the property. Unfortunately, an unwitting buyer paid £1.35m for the property. The police are currently investigating the fraud” says the Registry’s statement.
The Land Registry set up the service in February 2013 for owners who suspect a scam of some kind. The service employs dedicated staff who offer guidance to victims. It says the properties most vulnerable to fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free.
Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, buy to let landlords, people in long-term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.
*The service’s telephone number is 0300 006 7030 and the line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org