Do you think you have been involved in a property fraud scam? Clifford Tibber explains the typical signs of a scam and explains how not to get caught out.
Older people who are either retired or are approaching retirement are especially vulnerable to property fraud, industry experts have warned.
People aged 55 and over are far more likely than younger generations to be lured into fraudulent property investments by conmen promising astronomical returns.
They are being targeted primarily because they are more likely than the young to have ready access to investment capital.
But the fraudsters also recognise that some older people are more naive about internet scams – and more ready to believe what they read online.
Property lawyer Clifford Tibber, of Anthony Gold solicitors, said: “It can be an absolutely tragic situation.
“Older people look at their savings, or perhaps their pension statement, and they see they’re earning barely any interest at all.
“They then look online and read about the astronomical rates of return apparently available in property investments. Sometimes it is 30 or 40 per cent a year.
“Interested, they go along what may be described as an ‘investment course’, but is really a sales pitch. And the guy giving the talk is dynamic and very convincing.
“Many then take out cash from their pensions, and invest the money in property that is supposedly either about to be built or refurbished.
“A year later, however, and nothing has happened. And it never will. The best they can hope for is to get a fraction of their money back.”
Tibber’s warnings are echoed by both the campaigning charity Age UK and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The FCA found that over 65’s with savings of more than £10,000 are three and a half times more likely to fall victim to investment fraud than the rest of the population.
Age UK has pointed out that older people are “especially at risk” of investment fraud, in part due to financial pressures, but also due to cognitive impairment.
Tibber is currently representing a group of 100 investors who together lost £3 million in an alleged property scam.
He said his is very far from being the only case.
“The sad thing is that this kind of thing is generally easily avoidable.
“The first thing anyone considering investing in property should do is make sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with. At a minimum you should thoroughly check out the company, and the individual your dealing with, online.
“Then you should visit the property. Check it exists. If it’s a new build, then how much of it is already built? If it’s a refurb, is someone living it now? When are they going to leave?
“Finally, I think you should definitely ask a lawyer to look over the documentation. In my experience, most of these scams are quite obvious when you
look at the paperwork.
“In my opinion, it’s a good investment to spend £500 on a lawyer when you’re risking tens of thousands.”
This video has been recorded for Property Fraud Awareness Week 2017 in partnership with Property Tribes. If you think you have been a victim of property fraud please contact us on 0207 940 4000.