Homeowners at risk of identity theft

16 August 2007
New concerns about identity theft have been raised in connection with information stored on the Land Registry website, a government resource that registers title to land in England and Wales. It also registers dealings, such as sales or mortgages, with registered land. The register lists a description, the name of the owner and information on mortgages or rights that might affect the property.

For a small fee, details about homeowners, such as the value of mortgages, mortgage lenders and, in some cases, copies of customers’ signatures can be accessed by any member of the public.

Campaigners such as Experian’s consumer affairs manager James Jones have pointed out that experienced fraudsters may be able to fill in any additional information including date of birth and marital status in order to obtain a substantial amount of financial information about a chosen target. These details could be located through sources such as the electoral role, online telephone directories and social networking sites.

“Many people give their full names, addresses and dates of birth on social networking sites – enabling a fraudster to put together all the information they need to steal an identity. The general rule is to be very cautious about how much information you give away and who can see it,” says Jim Hodgkins from CreditExpert.

This could provide fraudsters with enough information to steal an individual’s identity and, according to The Metro, the annual cost of identity theft in the UK is approximately £2 billion. Ironically, the cost of obtaining these sensitive details from the Land Registry site is just £3.

However, the site claims that its objective is to reduce the “delay and anxiety” that can be experienced during the house buying process, and that it is therefore acting in the homeowner’s best interest. Furthermore, although the site can be accessed by anyone, searches can only be carried out using an address rather than by name.

Find out more CreditExpert and identity theft