Buy-to-let property owners are easy target for identity fraudsters, says CreditExpert.co.uk
CreditExpert.co.uk, the credit monitoring service from Experian, says landlords and buy-to-let property owners are one of the groups most at risk from identity theft, according to the latest UK victims of fraud data released today by CreditExpert.co.uk.
As the spring property-buying season gets underway and the cost of the average UK house rises another 2%, prospective buy-to-let owners are urged to take care to protect their good credit report from their new tenants.
One in two identity fraud victims who knew the person that had used their identity were landlords.
The risk is exacerbated for landlords renting out property they have previously lived in as over four in ten cases of identity fraud are previous address fraud.
In some cases, fraudulent tenants have used the landlords name and the rented propertys address to apply for credit, such as credit cards, loans or even just mail-order goods, in the landlords name.
Tenants have also intercepted mail addressed to their landlord and used personal details enclosed in the mail to open fraudulent credit accounts.
In both scenarios, the credit application is logged on the landlords credit report and bills of thousands of pounds can be run up in the landlords name, seriously affecting his or her future borrowing power.
People who change addresses frequently are also at risk from fraudsters. Almost half of identity theft cases in the UK have occurred at a previous address and one in four people fail to re-direct their post when moving home.
Its not just landlords who should beware of the identity-stealing tenants. People who have shared mail-boxes should also take steps to protect themselves from potential fraudsters.
Post can be easily intercepted from shared mail-boxes and an identity fraudster could use some of the victims details to open a new credit account online or over the phone, use the document as ID when making a credit application, or use the details to access an existing credit account.
CreditExpert.co.uk advises buy-to-let property owners to follow these simple steps to protect their identities. They advise that they should contact the Post Office to re-direct your post.
Even if you think you have not given your investment propertys address to anyone, this will ensure any post addressed to you is not delivered there.
This is even more imperative if you have lived in the property before letting it out.
Carry out comprehensive checks before signing a contract with a new tenant and ensure you have references from their previous landlords.
Register with the Mailing Preference Service to have your name taken off most of the direct mailing lists in the UK at the rented property.
This will ensure mail-shots from lenders and direct marketing credit application forms are not sent addressed to you at your tenants address.
Fit secure, individual mail-boxes for your tenants if it is a shared property. This will give your tenants piece of mind.
Monitor your credit report. Sign-up to a credit monitoring service that enables you to see if anyone has fraudulently applied for credit in your name.
Jim Hodgkins, managing director of CreditExpert.co.uk, says: Purchasing a buy-to-let property is an increasingly popular investment.
When considering this type of investment, people should be wary of the possibility of dishonest tenants taking advantage of your good credit score and credit report to incur debts in your name.
If you are concerned that you could be at risk from identity theft, a credit monitoring service will alert you to any significant changes to your credit report, so you can take any necessary action as soon as possible.