UK landlords warned over perils of identity theft
Landlords in the UK are being warned to be aware of and protect themselves from identity fraud which is on the increase with an estimated four million victims.
Recent data shows the UK's top spot for identity fraud is East Ham in London, with about seven times more attempts than the national average. Identity fraud was also prevalent in Romford, Bexleyheath, Woolwich, Cheapside, Stratford, Ilford, Walthamstow, Lewisham and Enfield.
Outside London, Altrincham in Cheshire is the UK's worst location for identity fraud, with 13 fraud attempts for every 10,000 adults, more than three times the national average.
According to the Balgores Property Group, an independent estate and lettings agency group based in Essex, identity fraud can result in landlords being swindled out of their rental income and in some cases, the property itself.
In one case a tenant was jailed for selling his landlord's house and pocketing £90,000.
Brian Kiddell was rumbled when the owner spotted his For Sale sign by chance after driving by one day. Kiddell, 75, sold the property on the internet although he was only the tenant and made off with the money. He embarked on the scam after renting the property in Newton Abbot, Devon, using the name Paul Stevenson, taken from a man who died in 2004. He then put it up for sale under the name David Ayton.
He was jailed for six years after admitting nine offences of fraud, theft and the dishonest use of a dead man’s passport. The court heard Kiddell had been jailed twice before and was involved in six sophisticated swindles.
‘This is an extreme and rare case. However, there are a lot of professional fraudsters out there that want to rent a property purely to secure an address from which they can carry out finance fraud. Often, they may be pay a few months’ rent in advance, with no intention of paying all the rent due during their tenancy,’ said Howard Lester, director of the Balgores Property Group.
‘Many use the property as a PO box for the delivery of goods they have bought on stolen credit cards. They are very savvy and know they can live in a property for up to six months before a landlord possession order is enforced. In that time, they can run up thousands of pounds in credit card debt and of course rental arrears,’ he explained.
‘These fraudulent tenants can provide authentic looking passports and utility bills. They are also very difficult to evict, as they seem to know their way round the legal system. The only way landlords can protect themselves is by carrying out thorough tenant references including ID validation checks and taking out rent guarantee insurance, which will pay the rent in the event that the tenant defaults. All professional letting agents will be able to do this on a landlord's behalf,’ he added.