A BBC investigation has revealed that a man’s house was sold and his furnishings removed without his knowledge, in the latest example of property fraud.
The Reverend Mike Hall was working away from his property in Luton and tipped off by neighbours that building work was under way in his home.
Hall's identity had been stolen and used to sell the house and the fraudster was able to bank the proceeds.
"I went to the front door, tried my key in the front door, it didn't work and a man opened the front door to me” Hall has told BBC Radio 4.
"I pushed him to one side and got in the property. I really didn't know what he was doing there. The shock of seeing the house completely stripped of furniture; all furnishings, carpet, curtains - everything - was out of the property."
Hall continues, in an interview for the You And Yours consumer programme: "We then tried to access the Land Registry documentation online to find out whose name appeared... and it is, in fact, as of 4 August, this man's name. At that point the police said, 'Well, there's nothing further we can do here. This is a civil matter; you need to leave the house and contact your solicitors.'"
Hall’s inability to get police support for the issue shocked him.
"I was in a bit of a state of shock anyway - but then to be told by the police they didn't believe a criminal offence had been committed here was just unbelievable.”
The BBC has now obtained a duplicate driving licence issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Hall's name, details of a bank account set up in his name to receive the proceeds of the sale, and phone recordings of the house being ‘stolen.’
Last month the Law Society of England and Wales - joining forces with the National Economic Crime Centre and Action Fraud - to issue flyers warning of the risk of payment diversion fraud.
The Law Society says property frauds almost always involve the criminals pretending to be the victim’s lawyer to con them into diverting their payment to an account the crooks control.
“We are urging our members to share these flyers with their clients in order to help protect them from these highly-sophisticated and cruel schemes” says Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce.
“These frauds can involve huge sums of money and have a devastating lifelong impact on the home buyer and their personal finances. Solicitors and their clients can all play a part in making such crimes more difficult for the criminals.”
One buyer was scammed into handing over £640,000.
Emails between the buyer and their solicitor had been intercepted by criminals, who were able to collect all the information relating to the house purchase.
They then used a spoofed email account - made to look like that of the solicitor - to request payment. Payment details were provided on headed solicitors paper via the spoofed email, and the amount requested was exactly what the buyer had expected to pay.
You can see more details of the Luton case involving the Reverend Mike Hall, here.